§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Lieut.-Colonel Colville)
I beg to move,1. BEEF AND VEAL NEW CUSTOMS DUTIES.That—(a) as from the sixteenth day of December, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, there shall be charged on the importation into the United Kingdom of goods of the classes and descriptions specified in the first column of the following Table, not being Empire products, duties of customs at the rates specified in the second column of that Table:—
Class or Description of Goods. Rate of Duty. — — (i) Beef and veal not preserved in any airtight container (excluding offals and boned and boneless meat)— Chilled the lb. ¾d. Other kinds the lb. ⅔d. (ii) Boned and boneless beef and veal and edible offals of beef and veal, not being beef, veal or offals preserved in any airtight container, and excluding sweetbreads 20 per cent. of the value of the goods.Provided that no duty shall be chargeable in pursuance of this Resolution in respect of any sausages or pastes, and no duty shall be so chargeable on the importation of tongues before the passing of an Act for giving effect to this Resolution and any other Resolution of this House;(b) goods chargeable with duty in accordance with the provisions of this Resolution shall, for the purposes of the Import Duties Act, 1932, be deemed not to be goods chargeable with a duty of customs by or under an enactment other than that Act;(c) it is expedient to make, in connection with the imposition of the duties aforesaid, provision wth respect to goods in transit or transhipped, with respect to the re-importation of goods exported, and with respect to drawback of duties, and for enabling the Treasury to repeal or reduce duties having regard to commercial agreements;(d) in this Resolution the expression Empire products' has the same meaning as in Sub-section (1) of Section eight of the Finance Act, 1919, as amended by any subsequent enactment.2304 This Resolution, and a second which I shall move later, relating to Customs duties on imported foreign meat and veal and certain other products, will, of course, be followed by a Bill to confirm them, and, as the Prime Minister announced, that will be taken immediately after the Christmas Recess. These Resolutions do not come as a surprise to the Committee. The proposed duties are an essential element of the Government's proposals for the assistance of the cattle industry in this country. The subject has been frequently debated and the general lines of the Government's policy have been fully set out. Before explaining the Resolutions in some detail, I think that the Committee will expect a brief narrative of the course of events which led up to the proposals now submitted.
The difficulties of producers of cattle in this country, and not alcne in this country but elsewhere, have been a matter of concern to the Government for many years. The Committee will recall that cattle and meat prices slumped heavily in 1931 and 1932 and continued to fall in 1933 and 1934, and have since remained at a low level. Following Ottawa and subsequently, restrictions were placed on the importation of foreign and Irish supplies, but these did not serve to secure satisfactory returns to the home producers. Since 1934, as the Committee are aware, Parliament has voted a subsidy, the cost of which as a temporary arrangement has been borne entirely by the Exchequer. For the time being no other course was available to the Government. It was explained at the time the subsidy was applied that in the Government's view the situation would be best dealt with on a more permanent footing by a levy on imports, coupled with a payment to producers and a measure of supply regulation. Such a plan as that could not have been introduced forthwith.
The Committee are aware that we were precluded from placing an import duty on foreign meat by the terms of our treaty engagements, and until the expiration last month of the Anglo-Argentine Trade Agreement of 1933, such a duty could not in any case be applied. But, beyond that, the policy that the Government proposed to adopt was of such importance to the Dominions as well as to foreign countries that discussions with Dominion representatives were an essential preliminary. 2305 These discussions have now taken place. The Dominions were consulted in 1935, and again this year during the visits of Australian and Canadian Ministers to this country. Negotiations were entered upon with a view to securing a new trade agreement with Argentina in replacement of the agreement of 1933, and the result of those negotiations has already been published and is available to Members in the form of the new agreement.
The outcome of the long and difficult negotiations is the policy outlined roughly in the Resolutions on the Paper to-day, and in the Livestock Industry Bill which is before the House, will in due course come up for discussion. The date of that discussion was announced to-day. I think it is Wednesday, 20th January, that is fixed for the Livestock Industry Bill, and that will afford full opportunity of discussion on a wider basis than is provided by these Resolutions. The interests to be considered in framing such a policy were many—the pressing needs of the cattle producers, the interests of consumers and our trade relations with Empire and foreign countries. Hon. Members must not forget that when they speak of the consumers' interests in these matters, very important though those interests are, there are also the very important interests of our overseas trade with foreign and Empire countries which have to be considered, as well as the interests of the home producers. It is no easy task to find a policy which fairly reconciles those interests.
§ Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE
The hon. Member says "Hear, hear," but it is a problem he and his party would have to face if they were ever responsible for the policy of this country. The reconciling of those three interests is not easy.
§ Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE
If that is the view of the hon. Member's party, it evidently cannot be entrusted to handle the affairs of this country, because this is a most essential part of the conduct of those affairs. The case for the producer need not be elaborated further now, because there will be an opportunity for more detailed consideration when the 2306 Minister of Agriculture explains the provisions of the Livestock Industry Bill. As regards the consumer, the objective of the Government has always been to secure the maximum possible meat supplies consistent with a reasonable return for the producer. In some quarters it is represented that the Government should deal with the beef problem by imposing a duty on imports sufficient in itself to protect the industry. That is the remedy which is frequently suggested as one that would be sufficient to give protection to the home industry. An alternative suggestion is that the imported supplies of beef should be curtailed in such a way as to raise prices. The Government have rejected these courses because in their view the benefit to the producer could only be obtained at an inordinate cost to the consumer. The policy of the Government of combining an import duty with a subsidy is designed to preserve a proper balance between the interests of the home producer and of the consumer.
Another interest is that of the overseas trade. I speak of this with feeling, because I worked for four years in the office of Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department in which we negotiated with many foreign countries for the purpose of getting an increase in our overseas trade. I, therefore, know the great difficulty of framing a policy which reconciles these interests. The line the Government are adopting is the only one that can be taken to preserve our overseas trade and at the same time to give a measure of assistance to our home producer in such a way as not to damage the consumers interest unduly. As regards our trade position with the Dominions and Argentina, the Committee need not be reminded that it has been the constant objective of the Government to encourage the development of overseas trade in recent years. They have attained a considerable measure of success in regard both to the Dominions and to foreign countries. It is important that these results should not be prejudiced for the future. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade, who will speak later in the Debate, is more qualified to deal with the trade aspect of the situation than I am, but I could not pass from my preliminary remarks without emphasising the great difficulty of reconciling the various in- 2307 terests and pointing out that those interests have been fairly met by the policy which the Government are placing before the Committee in this levy subsidy.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
The Financial Secretary has made two observations that seem to me to be ominous. Are we to take it from his last statement that we shall have no statement from the Minister of Agriculture on this important matter?
§ Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE
I have indicated that the Minister of Agriculture will, on the Livestock Industry Bill, go fully into the agricultural aspect of the question. This Resolution is primarily to raise finance, and it is one that should properly be presented to the Committee by the Minister connected with the Treasury.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman infer that the Minister of Agriculture who is responsible for the Department which is affected by these duties and levies, is to make no statement at all as to their relationship with agriculture and the products with which they deal? If that is so, I am not sure that I shall not have to move the Adjournment of the Debate.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
Surely the Minister of Agriculture is going to speak in this Debate. The Bill will be based upon this Financial Resolution and will be absolutely limited by it. I shall support a Motion for the Adjournment if we are not to have a speech from the Minister of Agriculture in this important Debate, which is the very prelude to the Bill.
§ Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE
I think that the hon. Members misunderstand the position. The Resolution necessarily deals with finance, and it is being properly presented to the Committee by me. The agricultural policy has been discussed on many occasions, and the Committee is not unfamiliar with it. The Minister of Agriculture and his predecessor have spoken about it on a number of occasions. On the Livestock Industry Bill there will be a full opportunity for that aspect of the matter to be discussed. To-day, however, the two Departments concerned are the Treasury, which is very much affected, for it has been paying the subsidy direct 2308 out of the Treasury; and also the Board of Trade which is concerned with the interests of the consumers and with the administration and management of this scheme. I think that the hon. Members would be unreasonable if they did not see that we must at this stage bring into this important subject the Treasury and the Board of Trade. The Minister of Agriculture, who has already spoken on the general policy of the Government, will be brought in later when he will fully explain the policy on the Livestock Industry Bill.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
The provisions of this Money Resolution will make the consideration of the subsequent provisions of the Livestock Industry Bill almost a foregone conclusion. Hon. Members on the other side who may not be satisfied with the amount of the subsidy will be precluded from raising the question on the Bill. That is one reason why the Minister of Agriculture ought to speak to-day. In any case, when this Resolution is passed, the House will be committed to the principle of the Ministry of Agriculture being subsidised in this way.
§ Sir ARTHUR MICHAEL SAMUEL
On a point of Order. Does not this Resolution implement Cmd. Paper 5324, which is the Anglo-Argentine Agreement? That agreement. does not deal only with livestock. It includes beef and veal and dozens of little items of various goods, including textiles. Do we not have to deal with the beef and veal part first before we can discuss the Livestock Bill?
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
The hon. Baronet referred to other goods embodied in this Money Resolution. I rather suspect that he has not read it or he would not have made that observation.
§ Sir A. M. SAMUEL
No, the ¾d. per lb. duty on beef is part of the agreement in which the other goods appear. I hold it in my hand.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The other goods will clearly be dealt with when the trade agreement is brought to the House for ratification. To-clay we are dealing with a specific proposal for a specific purpose. This Money Resolution is to enable the Government to collect a levy for the purpose of assisting the livestock industry, and surely, if the Committee 2309 is to pass a Resolution giving power to impose these duties, we ought to have a statement from the Minister responsible for the Department which is most closely affected. Whatever the Minister of Agriculture says on the Livestock Industry Bill, our hands will be tied because it will be based upon this Money Resolution. It is not treating the Committee with the usual courtesy to ask it to pass such a vital Resolution without the Minister responsible making some statement showing the anticipated effect on the livestock industry of the money to be collected.
§ Mr. SANDYS
In view of the fact that a number of hon. Members wish to give their views in this Debate, I wonder whether you, Captain Bourne, would give your Ruling on the scope of the discussion.
I had better reply first to the hon. Member for Farnham (Sir A. M. Samuel), who was kind enough to warn me that he intended to raise the point about the Argentine Agreement. I have had an opportunity of looking into it, and I am clear that this is not a suitable occasion on which to discuss it. We can only raise those paragraphs of the agreement which are affected by the Resolution now before the Committee. With regard to more general discussion, I have considerable difficulty about its scope. This is a Resolution in Ways and Means and, therefore, prima facie its object is solely to obtain revenue. I think that it will be open to the Committee to ask what necessitates the raising of additional revenue at this period of the year, and if that question is replied to I must then consider how much further it may open the Debate, but I would point out that it is obviously impossible to anticipate now a discussion on an Order of the Day of which notice has been given and which is coming on shortly.
§ Sir A. M. SAMUEL
With respect, I do not disagree with your Ruling, which is what we all expected. With regard to the amount of the proposed duty on beef and veal, may we argue that we do or do not agree with the amount or with the bargaining factors in the negotiations which have been undertaken to bring the duty to the stated amount? May we protest to the Minister that the 2310 amount is too little because the bargaining adjustments accepted are not those with which we are in agreement?
I think that I would rather hear the hon. Member develop his argument before I give a Ruling.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
Shall we be able to discuss the whole policy of the Government as regards livestock on this Resolution? If we are not able to do that, we shall find that we are restricted when we discuss the Bill. I submit that this Debate is of no use unless we can discuss the livestock question, and if we do not get an adequate reply from the Minister of Agriculture the Committee will be at a loss to know exactly where it stands in regard to this problem.
In reply to the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth), I would point out that this Resolution has no effect whatsoever on the Livestock Industry Bill, and the agreement or otherwise of the Committee to this Resolution will not affect that Bill in the least. Quite obviously, the Agreement goes very far beyond the livestock policy set out in that Bill.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
On a point of Order. You are no doubt aware that the Livestock Industry Bill will deal with a continuance of the subsidy for a longer period, but there are many Members of the House—not myself—who hold that the subsidy is inadequate and that the question as to whether or not the subsidy is adequate will depend on the method taken of obtaining revenue. In the view of many people this Resolution is insufficient to allow of a Debate as to whether the subsidy is or is not adequate. The whole purpose of the Resolution is in fact, as was said by the Financial Secretary, to provide finance for the purpose of continuing the subsidy which will be legislated for in the Livestock Industry Bill. Therefore, I submit that it is in order that we should have the fullest possible discussion on this Money Resolution because of the policy involved in the Livestock Industry Bill.
§ Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE
The finance which is being raised by these proposals will not be sufficient to meet the whole subsidy, and the reason why it is not proposed to raise more will be explained 2311 in the course of my speech. As the Committee knows, the subsidy has been paid for some period, and it has never been disguised from the House that it was the intention of the Government at the earliest possible moment consistent with our trade treaty engagements to seek to raise some portion at any rate of this finance from import duties. I therefore submit that the course which we are taking is quite proper and that the somewhat intricate explanation which I am giving is the proper way to introduce this Measure to the Committee.
In reply to the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander), I think it is obvious that this Resolution does not limit the subsidy which the House may see fit to grant on the Livestock Industry Bill, and I think it is obvious that the two things are not connected in the technical sense. This is really a taxing Measure. At the same time, I think it is difficult to dissociate one's mind altogether from the fact that it is a portion of a policy which has been announced by the Government. What I have tried to point out is that we cannot go into a full discussion of the details of that other Bill. The proper place for that is the Second Reading of the Bill, but to some extent references to it must be in order, and I shall have to judge how far such references are in order as and when they arise.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
Further to your Ruling, Captain Bourne, does not the very fact that you, Sir, stated that it will be possible on the Bill to increase the subsidy make it the more essential that we shall have a statement from the Minister of Agriculture?
The question whether or not a particular Minister addresses the Committee is not in my hands. I wish to correct one remark of the hon. Member's. I did not say that it will be possible to increase the subsidy on the Livestock Industry Bill. That is a matter which, I think, will depend on the terms of the Financial Resolution governing that Bill, and without careful study I should hesitate to say what the House could or could not do in that connection.
§ Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE
I think subsequent debate will show that the method which we have taken for introducing this Resolution is the correct one. There are two Resolutions before the Committee. The first applies duties on imports of chilled and frozen beef and veal, and other beef and veal not at present subject to duty. The second provides for duties on imports of foreign chilled and other beef products which are at present subject to the 10 per cent. general ad valorem duty. The rate of duty proposed for chilled beef, which is the most important import, is ¾d. the lb., and that is calculated as equivalent approximately to 20 per cent. ad valorem. For frozen beef the duty proposed is ⅔d. the lb., and again in our view that is approximately equivalent to 20 per cent. ad valorem. For the remaining products either 20 per cent. is proposed or the existing 10 per cent. duties are increased to 20 per cent. in all. I want to give the Committee a picture of the incidence, broadly, of these duties. There is an exception to this general 20 per cent. ad valorem duty, and that is with regard to tinned tongues, where, in order to maintain the protection already enjoyed by British manufacturers on imported tinned tongues, the duty on imported tinned products is proposed to be increased by 20 per cent. to 30 per cent. in all. That is the exception to the general 20 per cent. ad valorem level. These rates arc the maximum possible under the new Argentine Treaty, which has been laid before the House.
The total revenue expected to be derived from the duties is rather more than £3,000,000 per annum, and, as I have already stated, that will not suffice to cover the future cost of the cattle subsidy if approval is given to the proposals outlined in the Livestock Industry Bill. I am asked. "Why, then, is the rate of the import duties fixed at a level which will not in fact produce enough money to cover the whole subsidy?" The answer is to be found in what I said earlier, that the Government, in considering this problem, had 2313 to have regard both to the interests of consumers and to the interests of Empire and foreign traders—our trade with the Argentine, our valuable trade agreement with that country, and in addition the question of trade with the Empire. Imports from the Empire, as the Committee will see, are not to be subject to duty at all. The Dominions attach very great importance to the development of their beef industry, and we gave specific recognition of this fact at Ottawa. As a part of the negotiations to secure their participation in a scheme of orderly regulation of supplies in this market, it has been agreed that Dominion preference should extend to the full duties permissible under the Argentine Agreement, and consequently free entry of Dominion products is afforded as hitherto. That explains why we did not, either on foreign or Empire products, or on both, decide to apply a duty which would raise sufficient money to cover the whole of the intended subsidy.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
Is there to be no quantitative restriction at any time, apart from what there is now?
§ Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE
That is a point which, I suggest, should be dealt with later in the Debate, or by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, but, as I have indicated, the intention is that the Dominions should share with us the responsibility for the orderly regulation of supplies to this market, and great importance is attached to that feature.
§ Mr. LEWIS
Before leaving that part of the question, will my right hon. and gallant Friend say whether we are to understand that the Government have now definitely abandoned what they themselves have repeatedly stated to be the best long-term policy in this matter, namely, the imposition of a duty on all imports of foreign meat, with preference for those coming from Empire sources? Is that definitely abandoned, and, if so, why?
§ Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE
So far as the question of a duty on the imports of meat from the Dominions and the Empire is concerned, we have definitely decided not to apply such a duty, and for the reasons which I have stated, namely, that it is our view that it is necessary to afford them the full measure 2314 of preference which is available up to the duty applying to foreign products.
§ Sir A. M. SAMUEL
Does that not bring us to the point that the duty with which we are now dealing is exclusively dealt with under the Argentine Agreement, and for this reason how can we avoid bringing in that agreement on this Resolution?
I ruled earlier that there were certain effects of the Argentine Trade Agreement which might have to be discussed, but I do not think we should wander over a very wide area. I had better wait and hear how the discussion goes.
§ Lieut. - Colonel COLVILLE
The Argentine Agreement fixes or consolidates certain maximum rates of duty, and for that reason no higher rate can be applied to imported foreign beef and veal. I thought I had made no secret of the fact that the Argentine Agreement was an important factor in the consideration of this Resolution. In regard to imports from the Empire, it is the deliberate decision of the Government, after careful examination, consultation, and negotiation with representatives of the Dominions, that we are not applying these duties to imports of Empire products.
Coming to further points of detail, it should be explained that sweetbreads are proposed to be exempted from the duty under this Resolution. Hon. Members opposite smile, but there is an important reason behind this exemption, and the reason is that a considerable part of our imports of sweetbreads is used as the raw material for the manufacture, of insulin and its salts. These are imported free of duty, and it is desired that the exemption should similarly extend to the raw material for the manufacture of insulin in this country. I think that is a consideration with which everybody will agree. As insulin itself is at present free of duty, it would seem proper that the raw material for manufacturing insulin in this country should also come in without any duty being imposed.
The next point is that the Resolution excludes sausages and pastes, which at present bear a 30 per cent. duty. It also excludes from duty for the time being imports of raw tongues, tinned tongues, and jellied veal. The reason is that under 2315 the Anglo-Polish Trade Agreement the duty on tinned tongues and jellied veal is consolidated at 10 per cent. I should mention that this restriction will come up for consideration next year, but in the meantime the higher duties proposed in the Resolution will not apply either in respect of Polish imports or generally. Provision will be made to apply Section 14 of the Finance Act, 1933, under which the Treasury may make an Order reducing duties where it is expedient to do so having regard to the provisions of any trade agreement. The Resolutions preserve the full effect of the provisions of the Import Duties Act of 1932, and technically it will still be open to the Import Duties Advisory Committee to consider applications for increased duties, but I must explain that that is in so far as our trade agreements allow. In point of fact, almost all these duties, with the exception of tinned veal are consolidated in the Argentine Agreement. The Resolutions also include the usual Customs provisions about drawbacks on goods imported for re-export and goods re-imported which have previously been the subject of duty, and I do not think hon. Members will quarrel with the provisions in that respect.
Finally, it is intended that the duties authorised by the Resolutions should take effect forthwith from 16th December. In the case of the duties authorised by the second Resolution, duties on goods which are already the subject of duty, it is recommended that payment should be required under the provisions of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1913. In the case of the duties authorised by the first Resolution, on goods not at present subject to duty, the provisions of Section 6 of the Finance Act of 1926 will apply, under which the Customs may require importers to give security against payment of the duties when the Act giving effect to this Resolution comes into operation. As I explained at the start, these Resolutions have, of course, to be confirmed by a Bill which will be taken immediately after the Recess. In the meantime it is necessary for the proper management of the Customs that the Customs authorities should have power to require importers to give security against payment of the duties when the Act giving effect to the Resolutions come into operation.
2316 Having explained in some detail the provisions which appear on the Paper, I wish to conclude with a few general observations on the view which I believe is held in this House and in the country on the necessity of giving some measure of assistance to agriculture. It will not surprise me if the party opposite oppose these Resolutions, and yet I believe that in this House and in the country outside—and I speak not only of those who live in the countryside but also those who live in the towns—there is a determination that our agricultural industry, which is necessary to preserve our proper economic balance in peace time, and is vital to our very existence in war time, shall not be allowed to perish from unrestricted foreign competition. Hon. Members opposite may criticise us, but if they themselves were responsible for the handling of this problem they would have to make up their minds how to give British agriculture its proper place in our national economy. It would not matter if every acre of land were nationalised and every farmer and every farm servant were a State worker, they would still have this problem of imports from abroad. In any consideration of the problem they would come up against exactly the same difficulties as we are meeting, but I have never yet heard an indication from them that they have really thought out how they would face the question of importations from abroad. We believe that the steps that we have taken are wisely conceived, with a full regard for the interests both of consumers and foreign trade, and these Resolutions are a necessary part of the steps we are taking, and I recommend them confidently to the House.
§ 4.51 P.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
The right hon. Gentleman wound up his speech by stating that it would not be surprising if hon. Members on this side opposed these Resolutions. We should not be surprised if the President of the Board of Trade opposed them, for we recollect that the right hon. Gentleman made a profound statement in an area in this country which is now perhaps famous for that statement. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman's concluding observations proved more effectually than anything I can say the very close connection between these Resolu- 2317 tions and the industry of agriculture. He demonstrated clearly how difficult, and almost how ridiculous, it would be to attempt to debate the mere question of imposing the levy or duty without relating the use to which the levy was to be put. I hope that we shall be able not only to relate the duty to the industry but also relate it to its effect on the people of his country, and we shall have something to say about the wise and carefully thought out policy of the present Government as we have seen it worked out to its logical conclusion over the past two years. We have had numerous emergency Measures and temporary proposals, and at long last we have reached the starting point of their long-term policy. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman declared that these duties are an essential part of the Government's policy. If these Resolutions, the Livestock Industry Bill which will follow and the ratification of the trade agreements are any indication, we are moving towards the first stage of the final proposals of the long-term policy of the Government, and I quite imagine that in the next five or six, weeks, despite all the speeches made during the past two years, more eloquent speeches will be made on old English roast beef than on thrones and kings and men.
The Government's latest proposal is the most outrageous of all. Previously it was felt that direct financial assistance was necessary to preserve what the Minister always used to call "The first of all our industries." With £1,000,000,000 invested in it, no Government worthy of the name could allow that industry to go by the board, hundreds of thousands of men to be unemployed and all the other disasters which he has enumerated from time to time. We have had two years of direct financial assistance from the Treasury. Now we are invited to transfer the burden from the Treasury to the poorest section of the community, and of all the outrages which this and the last National Government have committed I think this is the most outrageous of all. It is not without interest that the ex-Minister of Agriculture was Financial Secretary to the Treasury and was sent to the Ministry of Agriculture to look after the Treasury. He failed lamentably, of course. It is not without interest that the present Minister of Agriculture 2318 should have been sent from the Treasury to the Ministry of Agriculture. It is not without interest that one of the ex-officers of the Treasury, the Chancellor's secretary, has been sent as Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture. Now the Financial Secretary to the Treasury stands up as the Minister of Agriculture and the caretaker of the public purse combined.
It seems to me that the combination of circumstances clearly indicates that whatever agricultural Members think about the Government and agriculture, at least the Treasury have made up their mind that if any more financial burdens are to be carried they will have to be borne by the poorest section of the community and not by the taxpayer. That is why I think the transfer of responsibility from Whitehall to Limehouse is a crime. I not only think it is a crime, but I am convinced that it will not have the effect which the right hon. and gallant Member seems to anticipate, and I shall give some reasons why I think this policy will be as big a failure as was the policy operating from September, 1934. We on this side are not going to be purely negative in our criticisms. We have not been purely negative in all the discussions since 1939. I repeat that we can make out a case for a temporary subsidy for any industry if in the national interest it is felt that that industry ought to be preserved, but when providing the temporary financial assistance we at least ought to be making inquiries into costs of production, into marketing efficiency and into slaughtering. We ought to be hacking our way, as it were, through any vested interests which may stand in the way.
I think the hon. Member is now getting on to matters which arise very directly on the Livestock Industry Bill. I have seen that Bill and every one of those things could be done in such a Bill, whether there was any subsidy or not.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
These Resolutions show a change of Government policy. They are merely transferring a direct financial burden upon the Exchequer on to the consumers of a certain product, and it will be difficult to discuss the cause and the effects of Government policy unless we can relate the money to be collected under these duties to the industry 2319 it is going to serve, and to make some reference, at all events, to the opinion in the country that in view of present retail prices an economic return ought to be finding its way to the producers of food in this country. I hope I shall be within your Ruling, Captain Bourne, in a casual reference to the need for this Financial Resolution. After all, if the industry were paying its way there would be no necessity for the Resolution. Therefore, in the nature of things, one must be able to relate the one to the other, or discussion becomes more or less futile.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman put it to us on these benches that if we were confronted with the problem we should have to face up to the issue, but the issue is not merely the passing of a Money Resolution and the handing out of money to make an industry profitable. The problem facing this Government or any other Government is not how to make farming profitable but how to make farming pay its own way, two very different things. That is why I said I shall not be purely negative in my proposals. I suggest, therefore, that while direct or even indirect financial assistance may be justified over a period pending the superimposition of certain modes of organisation and efficiency, it is a very different thing to impose duties and hand over the money unconditionally to the producers of a certain commodity. Unconditional subsidies are always bad, and I do not think that agriculture itself welcomes them.
What is the problem facing the Government, apart from any organisation? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman and the Government know that the potential demand for high quality beef in this country is unlimited, but the actual demand, which is determined by the incomes of the people, must of necessity be limited. What have the Government been going to ascertain the actual demand at an economic price? Have they taken any steps to learn the truth? I do not think they have studied the problem at all, because they do not seem to know anything about it. They know very little about that or many other problems of this industry. Under pressure they granted direct assistance, and under the same pressure they are now giving the duties and increasing the sum 2320 from £3,000,000 to about £5,000,000; but they leave the problem where it was. These Money Resolutions will not be any more successful than the direct assistance given during past years. What has happened to change the Government's policy? Since 1934, £8,250,000 has been given to beef producers in this country, but there is no marketing scheme, no slaughtering policy and no attempt at costing or at controlling prices on the market. The position to-day as the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said, is worse than it was in 1934. Prices have continued to fall.
§ Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE
I did not say that, and the hon. Gentleman must not put the words into my mouth. I said that prices still remained at a low level.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said that prices still remained at a low level. If he were Minister of Agriculture and were replying for the Ministry, he would know that prices are less than they were in September, 1934, and that is after the Government have provided a subsidy for more than two years. The position at the end of the period is worse than it was when the policy commenced.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I am referring to the price received by the producers of beef in this country. The Minister cannot ride off upon a side issue. After two years of direct subsidy, prices are lower, he must admit, than they were two years since.
§ Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE
The hon. Gentleman is surely leaving out of account the world trend in prices.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman and the Members of his party have always left out of account the world trend of prices since 1931, and since they have sat on those benches. It is only because he and all his political friends since 1931 ignored the world trend and world prices that they were able to bamboozle the people in this country into returning them to office. After five years of muddle, mess and incompetence, he has just learned, at long last, that world trends and world prices 2321 have some little effect upon our industries. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had been responsible as Minister of Agriculture during the past years, he would have realised that the world trend of prices has been the dream and the day-dream of every Minister of Agriculture for the past seven years. He is not going to get away from the fact that, instead of dealing with the weaknesses within the industry, not forgetting the problems of the Empire producer, of our investments in Argentina, and of our general food supplies in times of peace and war, they leave the beef producer worse off to-day than he was in 1934. The Government have never had courage to face the problems confronting the industry. Even now, this proposal is only collecting money from somebody else to hand over to the beef producer. It is not a policy; it is a mere expedient that cannot solve anything.
What was the cause of the depression? The Minister said in 1934 that the cause was surplus production, and that the quantity dumped on to our market was such that the market could not absorb it, at least at a price that was economic to the home producer. Therefore the Government set out to provide the maximum quantities that the market could absorb, to provide a maximum price for the home producer and to regulate the market in the meanwhile. What has happened in the meanwhile? Imports have been restricted. To put it on the highest level, imports since 1934 have been practically stationary. If there has been any movement in the market, it may be due to either surplus or shortage, but it is wholly due to our home producers. What are the facts of the situation? Between 1933 and 1935, there has been an increase of home-produced beef and veal of over 100,000 tons. In other words, the home producer has flooded his own market, and prices have constantly gone down. We told the Government in 1934, when asking for a direct as distinct from au indirect subsidy, that the moment we granted it we would attract a bigger supply. The Minister denied that possibility, but 103,000 tons excess was produced in 1935, as compared with 1933, over 2,000,000 cwts. more.
That increase is continuing to-day, and the price level is decreasing, not because of Argentina, New Zealand or Australia, 2322 but because there is no control of market supply in this country, one of the three essential things that the Minister declared he was caring for in his policy announced in 1934. On this point, I want to ask a question, and if the Minister cannot reply now perhaps he will do so when he comes in January, after four or five weeks' reflection. How much of the 100,000 tons extra supply in 1935 over 1933 was unsatisfactory cow beef? To what extent, for instance, is the market of the producers of high quality English beef being outraged by milk producers, whose primary object is to produce milk for which there is a stable price. To what extent is that individual on that side of the industry destroying the market for the beef producer? I recall that the Minister of Agriculture, in his White Paper of 1935, made this statement:The primary object which His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have before them in this connection is to assure to the efficient home producer a reasonable return and not to stimulate an artificial expansion of the United Kingdom livestock industry.What has he done to avoid an artificial expansion? What steps has he taken to prevent a further reduction in the price? So far as we know, he has taken no steps at all.
The hon. Member is referring to the livestock industry, but he must remember that we are now dealing with the taxing Resolution.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I am not at all sure whether we ought not to have pursued our first thought, namely, instead of attempting to proceed with a Debate of this magnitude and significance in the absence of the Minister of Agriculture, we should have moved the Adjournment of the House. I find it very difficult to disconnect this Motion, and I think perhaps the Government have deliberately put up the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on a matter which involves agriculture from top to bottom. I do not see how one can deal effectively with a problem which affects 50 per cent. of the people of the country. I fully recognise your extremely delicate position, Sir, and I would not in any way attempt to controvert your Ruling, but if your Ruling is that we cannot deal with the industry, with the effect of past policy and with the likelihood of present 2323 policy, I see no further use in discussing the question at all. We might as well adjourn the House and wait until 20th January, so that we can have a proper Debate. I do not want to controvert your Ruling, but if it is your Ruling that we are unable to make references to the industry which has created the need for these Money Resolutions and this £3,500,000—
I appreciate what the hon. Member is saying, but I am sure he will realise that the Committee to-day are in a very difficult position from the point of view of order. There is a Bill of which notice has been given and the text of which is available to hon. Members. It raises a very large number of the points upon which the hon. Gentleman is speaking. It is also true that under that Bill there is proposed to be a subsidy, and that if the present Resolution be passed, the money which it will make available is not earmarked expressly for that subsidy; but the subsidy will undoubtedly be paid out of the general Revenue, and this is one of the methods of raising it. So far as that is concerned, it is relevant to this discussion, but if I once allow the Committee to discuss now all the innumerable details which are covered by the Livestock Industry Bill, we shall be anticipating another Debate which will shortly take place, and that is contrary to the practice of the House.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I appreciate that the moment we return in January the Livestock Industry Bill will be given a Second Reading and that the Bill based upon these Money Resolutions will also be given a Second Reading on the day upon which we resume. To-day we are dealing with the most vital part of it. The livestock proposals will be in relation to £5,000,000. These Resolutions provide for £3,500,000. It is the source of origin of the £3,500,000 which concerns those who are taking part in this Debate. We shall see how far it is possible to go within your Ruling.
I want to ask the Financial Secretary where the stability of the beef industry is to-day, after two years of direct financial assistance. Where is that increased employment to which we were expected to look forward? The only reply which the Minister has given is the present 2324 Resolutions to increase the sum to be given to that part of the agricultural industry from £3,500,000 to £5,000,000 per annum. I repeat that it is not a policy, and for him to suggest to us that merely to put on ¾d. per lb. on imported chilled meat and two-thirds of a penny per lb. on imported frozen meat will solve the problem, is begging the question. I recognise that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is not expected to know much about agriculture, and, indeed, Captain Bourne, that may be your justification for keeping agriculture out of the question, but it does not absolve the Government from blame for not having the Minister of Agriculture in his place.
To what extent is this Money Resolution, as distinct from agriculture, going to affect the people of this country, and who is going to pay? If the figures which have been supplied to me are correct, 45 per cent. of all the beef consumed in Manchester is imported chilled or frozen beef, so that 45 per cent. of the people in Manchester will have to bear this burden. Fifty per cent. of all the beef consumed in Birmingham is imported, so that 50 per cent, of the people in Birmingham will have to meet this levy. Of the total consumption in London, 66 per cent. is imported, and, taking the whole nation, round about 50 per cent. of our consumption of beef is either imported chilled or frozen beef. The people who are to pay these duties will not be that section of the community who can afford to buy high-quality home-produced meat; it will be the unemployed, the pensioners, the low-wage earners, and, indeed, families on the means test, who will have to make a contribution towards this £3,000,000. It is an outrage if the Government can find no better solution than merely to transfer a burden from the Treasury or from the rich consumer of high-quality meat, and plant it on to the backs of poor, poverty-stricken people in this country. I remember that at the Tory Conference somewhere at the seaside this year the then Minister of Agriculture said:In their campaign that autumn "—that is to say, this present autumn—they ought to make it clear that a policy such as had been considered and discussed by Sir John Orr and others of an increased consumption of healthy foodstuffs in this country was the Tory policy.2325 What is that party's policy to-day? The Government are taking steps to reduce the import of nutritive food for those who cannot afford to buy except in very small quantities, and I repeat that it is one of the biggest crimes that this Government has committed to transfer the burden from either the Treasury or the rich consumer of home-produced beef and plant it on to the backs of the very poor. The "Economist" the other day made this statement on the same point:The levy plus restriction plan as applied to beef is particularly bad, for the levy will fall on imported low-quality beef in order to subsidise the home-produced high-quality article. The rich consumer of home-produced beef, that is to say, as well as the farmer, will be subsidised out of the pockets of the relatively poor consumer of imports; a peculiarly vicious example of regressive taxation.It is peculiarly vicious, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who asks for it is as vicious, almost, as the scheme itself. Some of my colleagues on past occasions have been in some little doubt as to the wisdom of opposing the present Government's agricultural policy, but there ought to be no doubt in their minds as to whether or not we shall support this proposal, for our complaint is that the Government's policy, if it can be dignified with the name of policy, is purely negative, and has no relation to constructive thought. It simply goes on to stereotype the prevailing system of agriculture and the happy-go-lucky organisation which has produced the chaos into which they have now fallen. I suggest that these Resolutions, and the policy embodied in them, are not good enough. If we are assuming the financial responsibility in a temporary fashion, we ought at least to insist on a change of policy.
I suggest again, and I hope I shall still remain in order in doing so, that there may be 200,000 unsatisfactory carcases finding their way on to the market in this country, and that we ought to have the Minister here to make a reply on that question. We may suggest constructively that if we had national slaughterhouses to deal with cow beef, we should be able to arrange that those portions of it that were fit for human consumption were tinned, to deal with the hides in bulk, to provide glands for medical purposes and manures of which horticulturists are badly in need, and thus we should be rendering two or three sides of the agri- 2326 cultural industry a very fair service. The Financial Secretary may say that such slaughterhouses would lose money, but so far we have lost £8,250,000 and have made no progress.
We are where we were when we started in 1934, simply because the Government will not face up to the realities of the situation. They ought to know exactly what is the market in this country for high-quality beef at an economic price that will pay the producer, and, when they have discovered what that market is, they ought to control the market supplies in such a way that the farmer would receive an economic price; they ought not to leave the matter in such a position that they can compel the consumer of imported frozen meat to make a weekly or daily contribution to the consumer of high-quality meat. They ought to survey the whole situation; they ought to plan towards a balanced scheme, and, where vested interests step in, they ought to tackle them with courage, though I know that to ask this Government to display courage is to ask almost for the moon. In any case we think it would be far better than the simple expedient of making farming profitable if they would set about trying to make farming pay its own way. We would not mind if the plan had to cover three, five or seven years, if they would only start, but no start has ever been made. We are still convinced that it is because they are determined to continue to repay their political debts to agriculture and its landlords that this policy is bound to continue, and for these reasons we are obliged to oppose the Resolution.
§ 5.25 p.m.
Major LLOYD GEORGE
I confess that it is a little difficult to know exactly how to go on with this Debate, because the Financial Secretary stated that the Resolution is an essential part of the Government's policy, and he went on to say that the levy which is now being proposed would not altogether cover the subsidy. Obviously, that meant that the two things are interlinked, and it is extremely difficult to say anything about the Resolution without going beyond the bounds of order. However, I will do my best.
The Financial Secretary told us, and we all agree, that agriculture is one of the most vital industries in this country. 2327 Indeed, not only is it vital from the point of view of the economic life of the country to-day, but it is becoming more and more obvious that it is vital to national defence. The object of all of us, I take it, is to stop the drift from the land to the towns, and not only to stop it, but actually to get a start in the other direction. Many measures have been introduced in the last few years, and another has been foreshadowed to-day; vast sums of money have been spent; and yet the drift continues. Despite all the measures that have been taken, despite all the expenditure of money, there are fewer people on the soil of this country to-day than there were some years ago. In the last few years the total number of agricultural labourers has gone down by something like 80,000. That does not seem to indicate that the measures which have been taken have been successful in stopping the drift. The Financial Secretary was pleased to criticise the party above the Gangway in regard to the fact that they had no policy. Might I ask him, or somebody else on the Front Government Bench, to tell us what the Government's policy is? The fact of the matter is that they have never made up their minds since they came into office what they really want to do for agriculture. They are running the agricultural industry on the instalment system. They ask the House to vote money for sugar; the next time it is wheat; later on it is pigs; then it is milk, and now it is beef. Everyone knows that this chopping about from one thing to another, instead of having a clearly defined objective, has seriously unbalanced the industry.
I am not going to discuss the question of Free Trade and Protection this afternoon; my views on that question are well known; but I think I am entitled to say this to the Government: They are a Protectionist Government, but my criticism has always been that they do not understand their own policy. They are Protectionist, but they have never applied Protection intelligently. They said that it was going to save the agricultural industry, but, if that be the case, I cannot understand the way in which they are applying it. The Financial Secretary told us towards the end of his speech that agriculture must not be allowed to perish, as I gather it was going to perish before they came in, owing to a, flood of foreign 2328 importation into this country. May I put to him this point? If it is necessary for that purpose to protect the agriculturist, it is surely necessary in logic to protect him from all competition. Some years ago the Government of which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is a Member sent representatives to Ottawa, where they pursued a certain policy. At that time I criticised the Ottawa Agreements very severely, and in particular I criticised the agricultural proposals. Nothing that has happened since then has made me alter my opinion; indeed, I have been confirmed in a good deal of the criticism that I then made.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us some years ago that the object of the Government's agricultural policy was to ensure the producer a remunerative price, and that is a policy for which we also fought. The Chancellor of the Exchequer at that time stated that the reason why it was necessary to restore prices was that prices had fallen owing to the excessive increase of importation into a market of which the capacity was not increasing. I shall have a word to say later about the capacity not increasing, but the low prices against which they are now trying to provide were clue, according to their own spokesman this afternoon, to excessive importation. What did they do, therefore, at Ottawa—and I gather, from the answer that was given this afternoon, that they are going to continue that policy? Their policy at Ottawa was to secure the development of the home industry and at the same time to secure an expanding share for the Dominion producer. I ask the Committee to notice that that is to be done in a market which shows no increase in capacity.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer went on to say that for this purpose the Dominions must be got to play their part. They have played their part to some tune in the last few years. The flood of foreign importation to which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman referred, which was going to ruin the agricultural industry, has certainly been stemmed to a certain extent, but its place has been taken by another flood from the Dominions. If you are a Protectionist and believe that Protection is going to save this industry, I cannot understand the policy of people who say, "You must protect them from one quarter though 2329 they may be equally ruined from another." I fail to understand, and I do not think anyone on that bench understands, the policy that they have advocated for so many years. I go further. I shall probably be out of order on this. I would ask them to refer to the situation that is likely to arise before very long. Their policy is to help the farmer by protecting him from this competition. The farmer does not care who it is who ruins him—whether he carries the Union Jack or any other flag. It makes no difference to him. How it is going to help the farmer to shut off one competition and give him the full blast of the other it is difficult to understand.
I believe that, if agriculture is going to be restored, you have got to pay very large sums for it. After all, we are spending large sums of money in making our defences efficient. One of the most important sections of our defence is our agricultural industry. It was shown to be so in the last War and from what we hear with regard to the Mercantile Marine and the deficiency of sailors and so forth, it may be much more important in the next war. I have never quarrelled with the suggestion that money has to be spent if the agricultural industry is going to be restored. I have always taken the view that it will cost a lot of money. I also believe that it will be money very well spent, for the benefit of the whole country. You will get a finer population and a more stable economic system if you can bring it about. But I should like to see the country as a whole contributing to this expenditure. I object strongly to making one section of the community, and that in many cases the poorer section, foot the bill. I would rather see it done by the community as a whole, because the community as a whole will benefit in the long run.
The producer is at present going through a very difficult time. Everyone realises that he must get remunerative prices. If you cannot farm at a profit, farming is going down. There is no permanent recovery for the agricultural industry without considering the needs of the consumer. If the consumer is not to be considered, there can be no permanent help in the agricultural industry. I mentioned a statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer four or five years ago that this was a market the capacity 2330 of which was not increasing. Do hon. Members opposite really consider that the market of Britain to-day is a market that is not increasing? Millions of people will be only too glad to prove that statement wrong. There is plenty of opportunity for increasing the market for consumption. There are only too many people who would be too delighted to get the chance to do their part in increasing the consumption of this commodity. You have the best market in the world. That is shown by our imports.
But what is vital to the population of the country is to concentrate more on fresh food, which is the one thing that can be produced here better than anywhere else. I would ask, before the Government enter into these commitments, whether the Minister is really satisfied that the British market is properly served. We know there is on record a Resolution which says that it definitely is not. Probably hon. Members would not think that a fair opinion, but, at any rate, it was the opinion of the House that the marketing system is chaotic. I would ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman again to consider, before any commitments are come to, whether a great deal more cannot be done to make it more possible for the vast population of the country to get the commodities which we alone can produce—fresh food in good quantities. I should like to see the assistance which has been foreshadowed as the result of this Motion extended to credit facilities, transport facilities and marketing facilities. I hope it is not going to be concentrated purely on payments for cattle. Under the emergency with regard to defence we were forced to appoint a Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. I wish the Minister of Agriculture would make himself into a Minister for co-ordinating agriculture, instead of treating it, as it has been treated in the last few years, as purely a collection of pursuits, dealt with sometimes one way and sometimes another. I wish he would co-ordinate the industry as an industry, and remember, above all, that it is vital that the consumer and producer should be coordinated too, for there can be no lasting prosperity to the industry with antagonism between producer and consumer. If he goes into the question of the whole industry he will find that it is quite possible for the producer to get a re- 2331 munerative price for his produce without penalising the vast army of consumers, on whose purchasing capacity this industry must in the long run depend for its prosperity.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Sir A. M. SAMUEL
This Motion almost coincides with the wording of the Fifth Schedule to the Anglo-Argentine Agreement, on page 66. I do not support the Amendment on the Paper, and I do not support the point of view of the hon. Member who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench. But I am glad that he has opposed the Motion because it has given us an opportunity of raising the whole question as to how long this Agreement should run, and the amount of the beef tax in the Agreement. I am not going to deal, as the last speaker did, with general policy or say what shall be done with the money when you have it. I shall keep closely to the amount of money that is to be raised per lb., as set forth in the Motion. It gives effect to negotiations based upon a compromise and the negotiations have been protracted. In the compromise the Agreement puts ¾d. a lb. on the Argentine product and there is in it the seed of much mischief. This ¾d. a lb. Agreement is like an arched roof which is kept in position by various thrusts, pulls, pushes and stresses of conflicting interests and buttressed up, though we have not yet realised how it is buttressed up, by two hidden subsidies out of British pockets. I do not think that the amount of ¾d. a lb. is right. I shall not say how much it is too little. I wish it were a great deal more. I was brought up in Norfolk and I have every sympathy with agriculture and hope to see it at least making a profit. On the other hand the textile people are against the imposition of any duty on imported products from the Argentine. Of course they wish to sell their textiles. Therefore, there is that stress or push of the British agricultural interests as against the textile thrust, and those things have to be considered, have to be related to the need of Argentina to sell us her meat and grains and foodstuffs.
I wish to draw attention to the two hidden subsidies. In order that the three farthings may be as low as it is, there has had to be conceded to the Argentine 2332 grower of pastoral and agricultural products a railway subsidy in two forms. That is not shown. It is a hidden subsidy paid by the British investor in Argentine Railways. A subsidy has been given to the Argentine growers of wheat and maize by the exchange control, referred to on page 6 of the Argentine Agreement, where it deals with the export of Argentine products and with the sterling exchange. The two things are cognate. The two things are also referred to in Article 4 on page 4 and in the Protocol on page 68. Those who have put the railways and the transport system into Argentina have provided the wheat and maize growers with two subsidies. They have carried the maize and wheat for the growers without proper remuneration and British utility companies have been subjected to a tax on exchange, which has enabled the Argentine Government to give a subsidy to the Argentine maize and wheat growers. A slight concession in the rate of exchange has been neutralized by the Argentine Government compelling the railways to reduce their rates on maize. As a matter of fact, the bargaining around the three farthings duty has been dominated by the vulnerability of our railway investments in the Argentine. This vulnerability of our investments in the Argentine has injured our British agriculture because it has prevented us, for fear our investments may be further injured, putting a larger amount of duty upon foreign meat so as to help British agriculture.
It is folly to deny that the dislike by the Argentine people of foreign capital has resulted in maltreatment of £277 millions of British savings which gave Argentina her railroads. This sum has never been allowed to pay a reasonable total income. Last year not a penny income was derived from £174,000,000 of railway capital. We subsidised Argentina by providing transport without being paid for our services. We are very anxious to keep friends with the hundred year old friends like the Argentine people, but this Argentine railway problem in relation to grain and meat and rates of exchange is a breeding ground for ill-feeling. It is necessary for us in dealing with this duty of ¾d. per lb. to examine the effect of the railway problem upon the agreement. The maltreatment cannot be allowed to pass.
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Captain Sir George Bowyer)
The hon. Gentleman promised when he started his speech that he would keep within the terms of the Motion which the Committee is discussing. I must remind him that this is not a discussion upon the Argentine Agreement and that he must keep within the Ruling of the Chair and the discussion of the terms of the Motion.
§ Sir A. M. SAMUEL
I am very justly rebuked and I accept it. The point is that it has only been possible to agree to the figure at ¾d. per lb. because the Argentine grower of meat has said that if there was a higher duty he could not live. Let us assume for the sake of argument that if the duty were higher he could not live. We have helped him to live by providing him with £174,000,000 worth of railway capital upon which not a single farthing of income has been allowed to be paid in 1934. That is a subsidy of nine millions per annum to the Argentine citizen. That has enabled him to accept the rate of duty at ¾d.; if higher than that, he said, it would not possible for him to live. He gets from us most of his railway services free, and a further cash subsidy by putting an exchange tax on the British owned railways, plus a reduction of freights on his grain. Before we go any further with these agreements about Argentine meat we ought to have the railway position straightened out. If we do not, then at the end of the agreements in 1939 when we come to discuss whether we shall renew them, friction will have intervened between us and the Argentine and it may injure the selling of our textile goods. I am not quite certain whether they could sell their food products anywhere else. We bought of Argentina exports £45,000,000 worth last year, including £36,000,000 worth of foodstuffs, and they bought only £15,000,000 worth of goods from us.
§ Sir A. M. SAMUEL
That is a curious point to make. We should rather take the point that unless the railway investment difficulty is cleared up when the time comes for reviewing the ¾d. a lb. duty on meat we should not again accept an Agreement such as that which we have before us, upon the terms upon which it is introduced. I do not wish to say 2334 anything more. All I wanted to say was that I do not think that the duty of ¾d. is sufficient, but I do not intend to vote against the Resolution, believing that we must be content with what we have got. But the Argentine people must understand that we consider they have treated us badly with regard to our railway investments and that we shall require to have these points cleared up during the next three years. Otherwise we must reconsider, on our side, whether we shall accept Argentine foodstuffs. As our railway investments bring us very little income we have not much more to lose if Argentina does not sell her products to us. It is time we made a stand for fair treatment.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Mr. PRICE
I will not follow the lion. Member for Farnham (Sir A. M. Samuel) into the intricacies of the Anglo-Argentine Agreement, but it is true that the Argentine Government have been giving an indirect form of subsidy in respect of chilled beef coming over here. I do not see any reason why, because the Argentine is sending over to this country cheap supplies which are of inestimable value to the poorer citizens of this country, we need make any objection. It is open to argument that the result of this importation is disastrous to British agriculture, and I should be the last to say that the feeding industry in this country is not in a serious predicament. As one who is engaged in that industry, I know it and I feel it, but I suggest that the method laid down in the Financial Resolutions is not one which is either in the interests of the mass of the consumers of this country, or, in the long run, of the agricultural industry. You cannot separate and divorce the one from the other. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved these Resolutions from the Government. Benches—and I think I am not doing him an injustice—said that it was a part of the livestock policy of the Government and for that reason we are all tempted on these benches to discuss the livestock policy of the Government and what we think it is.
Your Ruling, Sir George, and the Rulings of Captain Bourne, narrow us down to the purely financial side of these duties, but I should like to examine whether really it is the fact that these duties upon beef are going to be of all 2335 the value which it is suggested they will be to the livestock industry. Here we have a number of levies raised upon imported meat, the revenue of which is to be earmarked. It may not officially be earmarked like the Road Fund was, but I can come to no other conclusion than that in the long run that is what is going to happen. If it is not ear marked for the feeding industry, why is it that we are having these Resolutions brought forward now? Surely, the proper place is to have them introduced in the Budget for the coming year, but the mere fact that we are having this extraordinary taxation introduced now outside the Budget indicates that the Government are linking this up with their livestock policy, and in that way are creating an unofficial fund which is to be earmarked for the purpose.
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
It would be just as well if I made it quite clear that the money to be raised goes into the Consolidated Fund.
§ Mr. PRICE
My only point is that as it is being introduced specially now, it looks as if it is being connected with the livestock policy, but, of course, I accept your explanation, Sir George. My point is that all earmarked taxation is thoroughly vicious. I know that the Treasury have been opposed to this sort of thing and I believe that that is the Treasury policy now. If it is really the fact that the British livestock industry has suffered a decline because of foreign imports an examination of the figures of imported foreign meats is not without interest. I have been examining these figures for the last few years, and it is clear that the total imports of all meats, chilled, frozen, tinned, from all sources for the last five years have not undergone any very considerable fluctuations. In 1931, the highest figure was 13,135,000 cwts., and in subsequent years, up to and including 1935, the figures have fluctuated between 12,175,000 cwts. and 12,679,000 cwts. It is true that in the first 10 months of this year there has been an increase in comparison with the 10 months of last year of about 2 per cent., but taking it as a whole there have been no very large fluctuations.
The same thing also applies if you look upon it not as a whole, but in part. The 2336 imported chilled Argentine beef has undergone a reduction since 1931. It was 9,288,000 cwts. in that year, and it went down to 8,798,000 cwts. in 1932, and the lowest point was reached in 1934, when it was only a little above 8,000,000 cwts. There has been an increase for the last 10 months in comparison with the 10 months of 1935, but the fact remains that there has not been that amount of increase of imported chilled, frozen and other forms of meat to cause the difficulties which are the subject of discussion.
If we examine the level of prices of live stock of all the various forms of meat we find that in 1931 fat Shorthorn and Hereford live stock in the markets of this country was 47s. 6d. per cwt., and that it has been steadily going down. It was 44s. 10d. in 1932, 39s. 10d. in 1933 and 39s. 2d. in 1934. I have not the figure for 1935, and, anyway, the position is worse now. English longsides of beef were 8½d. a lb. in 1931, and they have been going steadily down since 1934, and the same is to be said of Scottish short-sides, and of Argentine chilled, 6½d. in 1931, going steadily down to 4½d. in 1934, and frozen Australian 4¼d. in 1931 and 3½d. in 1935. That indicates, surely, that the cause of this fall in livestock as live weight and as dead meat cannot be due to the imports which have been coming in during recent years, and there must be some other cause to consider.
Certainly we shall not solve this question by putting a tax upon the cheapest form of meat. The interesting point to notice here is that there must be some world causes at work, because the falls in prices have been quite general, no matter what the class of meat or from what country the meat comes. It is as though on this question of meat we were all linked up one with another. It is also to be noted that on the average throughout these years home-killed meat is about 2d. dearer than chilled Argentine, and that chilled Argentine beef is about 2d. dearer than Australian frozen. These three classes of meat serve three different markets, and that is a point we have to remember. It has been estimated that 15,000,000 families in this country, representing 26,000,000 people, consume the cheaper classes of meat, leaving the rest to consume the English home-grown meat. That is, roughly, about half the population.
§ Mr. PRICE
Those are the figures which I have seen quoted. My main argument is not altered that, roughly, half and half represents the numbers of those who are consuming home-grown meat and those who are consuming imported meat. In many of our big cities in the north, particularly in places like Glasgow, the only meat that is consumed by poor people is the very cheapest form of Australian cow beef, which they mince. These people are unable to afford anything but the cheaper forms of meat coming from Australia. One of the main troubles which the livestock industry has to face is the fact that there has been for many years much depression in our mining and heavy industries. In the years before the War, when the mining industry in South Wales was doing well, the buyers of English beef used to go to the markets in the Midlands and buy heavily there. Since the depression in the South Wales coalfields the purchases from that quarter have gone down very much. In my own constituency, the Forest of Dean, many miners, especially when they are working only half time, as they often do during large parts of the summer, bring home no more than 25s. or 30s. a week. How is it possible under those conditions for those families to purchase English beef? Their only opportunity is perhaps once a week to buy the cheapest foreign meat. If we raise the price of this meat, those people will not be able to purchase their previous amount and will either have to cut down their quantities or go to other forms of meat, such as the cheapest cuts of bacon.
I think I have shown that there is another cause for the falling off of beef purchases in this country, owing to the industrial depression. There is some indication that in the last 12 months there has been an improvement in the heavy industries, but not in the Special Areas and not in the big coalfields, which are lying almost derelict. There may have been a slight improvement, with some consequent improvement in the purchasing power of some of our industrial workers, and possibly there will be a slight increase of beef purchases, but the main problem remains, that so long as we have our 2338 Special Areas and our large volume of unemployment and poverty, there will not be any large increase in the meat consumption by those people who are so important for the cattle feeding industry. The miners and the workers in the heavy industries are the kind of people who can consume large amounts of beef if they are in a position to do so.
We have to remember that there has been a change of habits in recent years. Owing to labour-saving machinery people are tending more and more to go over to the consumption of light meats, vegetables and fruit. The large joint is not the feature in the households to-day that it was in Victorian times and the earlier part of this century. We more and more rely for the success and buoyancy of the meat market upon those engaged in physical labour, like miners and the workers in the heavy industries. It is, therefore, the more necessary for us to study most carefully the consumers' aspect of this question, and not blithely to put on taxes here and there on the assumption that we are going to solve the agricultural problem in this manner. The revenue of this tax is, somehow or other, to be applied to the assistance of the agricultural industry in the form, I presume, of a subsidy which we shall discuss in the new year. I should like to give a warning. The evidence of what has gone on in the last three years should be enough to daunt the Government. The subsidy of 5s. a cwt. has not gone to the producers. Probably the farmer has not received more than 6d. of that 5s. The remaining 4s. 6d. seems to have been dissipated otherwise, but I will not enter into that question, because it would not be germane to this discussion.
There is no reason to suppose that the exporter is going to pay this tax. The incidence of taxation of this kind is obscure, but we can say generally that if there is a large surplus of meat in the exporting country and if there is no real shortage of supplies in the importing country the levy or tax will not be paid by the exporter, but is much more likely to be paid by the consumer in the country to which it is sent. You may find conditions in which the tax may be borne, in part, by the exporting country, but there is no evidence at the present time that that would be the case here. If that is so, having regard to the facts 2339 that I have stated, I maintain that this tax will cause a rise in the price of the cheaper forms of meat and will result in the poorer sections of our people consuming less, or going over to other forms of meat.
This form of assistance to the agricultural industry without the necessary reform in our marketing system, which I will not discuss in detail now, is wrong. Everything that has happened up to now shows how unsatisfactory is this method of dealing with the problem. All that has happened so far is that the total amount which the farmer receives for the beef he sells has remained the same. He has received no more in the aggregate in money form although he has been supplying the home market with more beef. So it will go on, in the absence of any reform of our marketing system which would eliminate the waste which is at present taking place. I agree that some form of assistance must be given, but the best form of assistance is, first, the reform that I have mentioned and, secondly, direct financial assistance from the Treasury. The assistance should fall upon all sections of the community, particularly upon the direct taxpayers, who are much more likely to be able to afford this burden than those who will have to pay this tax in the long run. I maintain, therefore, that the proper way of dealing with this problem is to put out of our minds any idea of trying to finance the agricultural industry by taxing the importation of cheap food into the country. Let the assistance come direct from the Government, accompanied with the necessary reform which will prevent the waste that is going on at the present time.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury in introducing the Resolution stated that it was, first, a revenue Resolution and, secondly, a Resolution designed to help agriculture. We have many cooks dealing with the agricultural industry to-day—the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the President of the Board of Trade—this Resolution is based on his Argentine Agreement—and the Minister of Agriculture. They have not made much of the job of restoring prosperity to agriculture, up to now, but only a beginning. They have begun with tariffs, but not gone very far. The hon. 2340 Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) denounced this tariff as an outrage.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
My right hon. Friend who interrupts me, who was an efficient First Lord of the Admiralty, must remember that when I discussed this fiscal question then the expenditure of the country was £200,000,000 but to-day it is over £800,000,000. That is a very vast difference. I am afraid, however, that I should go beyond the rules of order if I argued further with my right hon. Friend. It is no disrespect to him, but perhaps I might meet him on that subject another time. I always listen to the hon. Member for the Don Valley with much interest. It is extraordinary how he has gathered so many facts about the agricultural industry, representing as he does a mining division. On the question of mining, may I remind the hon. Member and other hon. Members of a little incident that happened to me. We who are engaged in agriculture tend to be thrifty. I had a circular about the summer prices of coal and, trying to get my coal at the cheapest price, I gave an order for delivery about the second week in July. I had a communication in the middle of August from the agent, saying that under the Government quota system the monthly output for the colliery was restricted to a certain tonnage and that since they had raised that tonnage they must stop working for the rest of the month. That is a tariff for the coal industry. Why does the hon. Member, having reaped the benefit of a tariff for the coal industry, object to the agriculturist getting a tariff? I want to benefit the mining industry because I know the miners are our best customers for beef, but do let us have a little reciprocity and not denounce the tariff in this Resolution as an outrage, as the hon. Member did, when we too are asking only for some form of regulation.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
In 1935 the wages of mine workers in this country were 44 points above the 1913 average, while the weekly returns issued by the Ministry of Agriculture said that to maintain a working-class family they should be 51 points over 1913. Therefore, despite restrictions and regulations, the mine worker is still not receiving the same standard as in 1913.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
The hon. Member said that but for the regulations the miners would be worse off. Why not therefore, apply the same regulations to the agricultural industry? I only put that point because I want to benefit the workers. The Resolution will be gravely disappointing to the agricultural industry. I am not going to discuss the agricultural policy of the Government except so far as it is contained in the Resolution. Tariffs have benefited workers in other industries, indeed they have been one of the chief planks in the Government's programme. If they have benefited workers in other industries why should they not benefit the workers in the agricultural industry. This is a very small sum, ¾d. per lb. on beef and 3d. per lb. on other kinds of meat. The iron and steel industry have a tariff of 33⅓ per cent.
My point is that the Resolution excludes Empire products. Why should you exclude Empire products? The Resolution does not give agriculture the same treatment as is accorded to other industries; why I cannot understand. I understand that the amounts proposed are going to bring in about £3,000,000 per year, and the Financial Secretary has told us that the subsidy to the agricultural industry is to be 25,000,000. I have not the smallest doubt we shall be told that it is a dole. I hate the word, and agriculture does not want a dole. I want to say a word or two with regard to these subsidies. The tariff in the Resolution is not really enough. It is not sufficient on the beef from foreign sources, and the beef from Dominion sources should also be taxed. I do not know whether the Government have realised how the trade of this country has been progressing this year. Imports are greatly in excess of exports. I observe in "The Times" this morning that imports are £68,500,000 over and above the 1935 figures. The imports have greatly increased, but exports have increased only slightly. That means that if we were in a world system of stable exchanges sterling would go down and everything would become dearer.
Therefore, although the Resolution goes a little way, it does not go far enough to maintain the stability of British currency. If currencies all over the world were stable we should feel it, and that 2342 is why I argue that the Resolution does not go far enough. If sterling did fall, which it will do unless you check imports, it will mean that prices will rise here all round. I want to tell the Labour party that if we paralyse agriculture in this country we shall have to pay very heavily for overseas products. The Dominions are not averse to receiving the largest price from the British consumer. In 1929 I was in Canada, they were then hoping to have two dollar wheat, and the Government bought up large quantities of wheat and hoped to charge more to the British consumer. Therefore we must not reckon on the Dominions; and that is why I object to the Dominions being left out of the Resolution. The Dominion producers will demand the highest price, and we want as an insurance to encourage the production of as much as possible in this country. I am certain that it would be in the real interests of consumers later on.
I understand that in the Argentine Agreement there have been certain concessions. I agree, and it is admirable if you use tariffs to compel freer trade, but why not use tariffs, and propose a Resolution having a tariff, with the Dominions. The Dominions tax our goods and are actually using some of the taxes they collect from our goods to subsidise agricultural products coming into this country. The whole thing is unfair. I should like to see the Government bringing in a Resolution which would give relief to agriculture and also strengthen the revenue. Do not let anybody make a mistake; the armament expenditure on which we are engaged is going to cost money. You will have to get more money into the Exchequer or sterling will fall. This was the policy of the Government announced by the late Minister of Agriculture in July, 1936. But we have had changes in the policy of the Government on the question of a duty on foreign and Dominion imports. In March, 1934, and also in 1935 there was to be a levy on Dominion products which was to be used for the relief of agriculture. Why has that policy been dropped? I cannot understand it.
That was the policy announced deliberately in 1934 and 1935, and now Dominion products are deliberately excluded. Why? This new policy was not mentioned at the General Election which was fought on the policy announced in 1935. Now the Government come down and alter it. I 2343 do not know who is responsible for the alteration, I rather suspect the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but the agricultural community will have an opportunity of discussing the matter when we are not cabined and confined by Rules of Order. The policy of the Government was to put a duty on all meat imports with a substantial preference to the Dominions. It has not been carried out in the Resolution. The Government will regret it. I am certain that agriculturists will be disappointed, and, what is still more important, agriculture itself will not receive that measure of encouragement which it has been led to expect. One of the greatest benefits which could be given to this country is a restoration of rural prosperity.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
The speech of the hon. Member for Farnham (Sir A. M. Samuel) was, to my mind, an amusing and an amazing speech. It was amusing by the way in which the hon. Member wanted to impress on the Committee that the Argentine was an enemy of this country because she wants to send us cheap beef, and amazing that the hon. Member as a financial purist should be offeneded because the Argentine insisted on paying her debts in the form of imports into this country.
§ Sir A. M. SAMUEL
The point I made was that the Argentine bought £15,000,000 worth of goods from us and that we bought £45,000,000 worth of goods from her. In addition, £174,000,000 of railway capital, lent to Argentina, never paid in 1934 a single farthing to British investors. She does not permit the Anglo-Argentina railways to earn a reasonable overall income.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
That does not alter my argument. If you are going to prevent the Argentine sending a greater amount to this country than she receives, with an outstanding debt of £500,000,000 which we have lent her, how on earth is she going to pay that particular debt?
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
She does. The right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) began and ended his speech by a criticism of the Government. The more that industrial Members in this House listen to agricultural members, the more 2344 they wonder when they are going to be satisfied.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
Then agriculturists would be much worse off than they are at present. Neither industry nor anything else in. this country is treated as a sort of pet in the way that agriculture is. The right hon. Gentleman then made a statement that was astonishing. He said that he expected it would be said that this is a dole. What else is it?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
We demand only the same treatment as is accorded to the iron and steel industry. The hon. Member does not call it a dole in that case.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
In the case of the iron and steel industry it is not a definite gift of money, as this is. This is a definite subsidy. The right hon. Gentleman said it was not big enough, and the whole of his speech was to the effect that agriculturists would be absolutely dissatisfied. He said, in the first place, that it is not enough, and then he asked why the duty is not extended to all imports, whether they come from the Empire or anywhere else. There is no avoiding the fact that agriculture is on the dole, whether we like it or not. If it were in order, I could cite all the different instances of agriculture being on the dole. The right hon. Gentleman said, "Look at the awful position of this country—there are more imports than exports." Which country is more prosperous, a country that has an excess of imports or a country that has an excess of exports? That is a test of prosperity, a test as to whether we get more for the goods that we send out. Then, like all people who believe in tariffs, the right hon. Gentleman wanted it both ways. He said we ought to have a bigger tax so as to get more money for the Exchequer, and a moment before he had been complaining that this tax is not big enough to keep out imports. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. We cannot keep goods out of the country and at the same time get more money for the Exchequer.
I am reminded of what the Prime Minister said yesterday when, referring to another matter, he spoke of an unprecedented situation. I believe it is true to say that for the first time in the his- 2345 tory of this country—I am open to correction if I am wrong—we are putting a definite tax, as such, on meat. What really astounds me is that the President of the Board of Trade can agree to that particular tax. During the last Parliament, there was a discussion across the Floor of the House as to what the President of the Board of Trade had promised at the 1931 Election. On 10th February, 1932, he told us what he had promised, and he said:What I said was that I was against the taxation of wheat and meat."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1932; col. 905; Vol. 261.]There was a sort of roundabout taxation of wheat, but here, for the first time, there is an absolutely definite tax on meat. In the Debate on the Import Duties Bill, to which I have referred, the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) criticised the President of the Board of Trade and the Government because there was no specific duty on meat, and it was on the free list. We were all led to believe that one of the reasons meat was left on the free list was that the President of the Board of Trade had pledged himself not to tax meat and wheat.
A great deal has been said to-day concerning agricultural policy, and I want to say that it was a great relief to me when the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland left the Ministry of Agriculture. I believe all the schemes which the right hon. Gentleman introduced have been failures. To-day they have been denounced from the opposite side of the House. They have been chaotic, a policy of shifting from one thing to another, and the only thing which they have had in common is that every one has been a failure. I am rather restricted in what I would like to say by the Ruling that has been given by the Chair, but I would like to dwell on this definite tax on meat. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland, when he was Minister of Agriculture, repeated time after time that we cannot afford to buy in the cheapest market. I remember the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, referring to the restrictions on imports of bacon, told me that I should have to learn a new economics, the economics of glut. We cannot afford to buy in the cheapest market; there is a 2346 glut. The Government have abandoned the policy of cheapness and substituted —I say these words after having given them consideration—the deliberate policy of raising prices to the consumers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad that hon. Members opposite agree. It is as well for the people of the country' to know that that is the deliberate policy of the Government. Not only have the Government done it in the case of meat, but in the case of milk. In Bradford we get winter milk prices one month earlier than we used to do. Everything has been done to raise the prices of food. There have been marketing schemes, with all their restrictions, there has been limitation of production—every conceivable thing has been done to make it harder for the poor people of this country to live.
§ Major BRAITHWAITE
The agricultural labourer is poorer than the workers represented by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
That is very doubtful. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will go to the Vote Office, and look up some information on the textile industries, he will find something that will interest him on that point. It is very interesting to go back to the beginning of this particular part of agricultural policy. When the first Bill giving a subsidy on cattle was introduced, we were told by the Minister of Agriculture that it was 6, purely temporary Bill, and that as soon as the levy was put on meat, the money so raised would go back to the Exchequer to reimburse it, for the subsidies given. I remember that Sir Herbert Samuel, who then sat on these benches, challenged the Minister on the question whether or not the Exchequer would receive repayment. The levy and the subsidy are to be permanent; the one works with the other. There is to be no repayment of the £8,000,000 which have already been given. Moreover, there is to be a permanent tax on meat and a permanent subsidy. When we have raised the amount for this particular duty, we shall still be about £1,500,000 or £1,750,000 per annum short of the sum necessary to pay the permanent subsidy, and the Exchequer will have to make up the balance. I suggest it would have been better to call this Resolution a Money Resolution for the relief of the Treasury, for that is its real meaning.
2347 At whose expense is this money to be paid into this fund? At this point, I would like to meet a criticism which may be made. Hon. Members opposite very often call out "Sob stuff," or "Sentimentalism." I intend repeating what has been said time after time, and I do not mind how much that sort of criticism may come from the other side. This is being done at the expense of the poor people who cannot afford to buy English meat. It is being done at the expense of the men in receipt of unemployment benefit, and the families subjected to the means test. It is nonsense to talk about the foreigner paying this duty. That argument may be put forward in regard to some things and it may be correct, although I do not say it is, but it cannot be put forward on this question, for the difference in price between the foreign article and the English article is too vast for him to pay the duty. When this duty has been put on, there is still left a great margin. The Treasury knows that. It is suggested that Empire meat is to be substituted for this foreign meat, but I suggest that the margin of quality is too big for that to be done. I took the trouble a few weeks ago to go to Smithfield Market to examine foreign and Empire beef. I do not profess to be an agriculturist, but I profess to know which joint I would prefer as I saw them at Smithfield. The margin in quality is too big for it to be suggested that Empire meat is to be given a particular advantage in that direction.
One of the things I cannot understand is that at the very moment when all the authorities in England who profess to understand the food problem are concerned about standards of living and the fact that a great percentage of our people —we are told 40 per cent. of them—are under-nourished, at the very moment when we are concerned with building up an A1 nation, when an appeal is being made for recruits, when there is so much talk about the physical development of the nation, the Government are making meat dearer. The tables drawn up by Sir John Orr show that in the household where the average amount that can be spent on food is 4s. a week, the consumption of beef and veal is 10½ounces a week, and that when the amount is 8s., it is 17.2 ounce's a week.
2348 One could go on showing that what is wrong in this country is that the prices of foodstuffs which really make for physical fitness are so high that poor people cannot afford to buy them. They cannot afford to pay 7d. a quart for milk, and they buy tinned milk or go without milk. The wheat price is an artificial one. The bacon price is an artificial one. Potatoes are almost beyond poor people's reach, and will be, as hon. Members know, in February. About a fortnight ago the price jumped to £4 a ton on the market, and it is mounting up week by week. Those are foods that are absolutely essential for the physical wellbeing of the people. Now we have the last straw—a tax on the miserable portion of meat that they can afford to buy. You are doing it in order to relieve the Exchequer and in order that some of us may save perhaps a farthing in the pound Income Tax if it is distributed over the community. The agricultural policy of the Government, particularly this part of it, is a mockery and a farce.
We have heard a lot of talk about changes in the habits of the people and the reduced consumption of meat. It is true that people are not eating as much meat as they did formerly, but they would eat more if they had the money to buy it. There is a change in the habits of those who can afford other kinds of food, but the person who is doing hard manual labour wants a beef-steak when he gets home and if those people had more money they would buy more meat. I found myself rather in disagreement with one statement made by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). He said that there ought to be a market supply committee, and that we ought to measure the demand for meat. I suggest that it is impossible to measure the demand in present circumstances. The ordinary housewife when she goes out to buy meat at the week-end does not think about what she requires. She has, say, 2s. to spend, and all she thinks about is the amount of meat which that will buy. That is all she can afford.
If you want to stimulate the agricultural industry, you will not do it by putting things beyond the reach of the people. You can only do it by providing the people with the income to purchase these products. It is astounding to me that this policy should be regarded as a 2349 policy for stopping the flow of imports. If that be its purpose why is this duty limited to foreign supplies? Those are the very imports which have gone down. The imports of chilled beef from foreign countries in 1931 were 9,288,000 cwts., and in 1935, 8,007,000 cwts., a reduction of 1,200,000 cwts., while the imports from British countries have gone up from 9,000 cwts. in 1931 to 482,000 cwts. in 1935. The imports of frozen beef from foreign countries in 1931 were 1,145,000 cwts. and in 1935, 740,000 cwts. The imports of frozen beef from British countries in 1931 were 1,549,000 cwts. and in 1935, 2,240,600 cwts. If your purpose is to have a smaller quantity coming into the country, you are going the wrong way about it. The imports which have increased are not the imports upon which you are putting the duty. You are leaving the gap open where increased imports are entering.
There is one question which is relevant to this subject and which I would put to the Secretary for the Overseas Trade Department. How are the Ottawa Agreements being carried out? We have a right to know before we are asked to place a duty on foreign imports, whether the countries within the Empire are carrying out what they promised at Ottawa. The hon. Gentleman knows very well that they are not. In the debates on the Ottawa Agreement it was agreed that, as far as possible, the increase of exports from those countries to us of certain grades of meat should be kept to a certain percentage. We all know that a vastly greater amount is coming in than was fixed under what was then termed "gentleman's agreement." Evidently it will be necessary next time to have not only a gentleman's agreement but a lawyer's agreement in which things will be definitely set down.
In the last Parliament when the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) and his friends were arguing that meat should not be on the free list, the Chancellor of the Exchequer answered him to this effect: "It is not the duty that we are concerned about but the quantitative restriction." Now we are getting both. We are making the worst of it both ways. We are restricting the quantity and taxing the smaller supply. Nobody is more concerned than I am to see the farmers prosper. [Laughter.] I ask hon. Members who laugh, "Are your schemes 2350 making them prosper?" I see meetings of branches of the Farmers' Union week after week near the constituency of the hon. and gallant Member opposite, but I have never heard yet of one of those meetings at which it was said that these schemes were making them a profit.
§ Major BRAITHWAITE
I think the farmers of my constituency have shown a distinct appreciation of the wheat subsidy which has cost nobody anything and has benefited them considerably.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
Perhaps the Treasury has some way of doing it that I do not know about, but I have my suspicion that it is costing everybody something. Again, why do agricultural representatives complain, in speech after speech, if the industry is prosperous as a result of these schemes? They cannot have it both ways. When I speak they contradict me, and when the Minister on their own side speaks they contradict him. Every speech is a complaint. In regard to this particular duty, I would like to ask, has the farmer benefited train the subsidy up to now? Has the farmer got the subsidy? Let me refer in passing to the remark of an hon. Member earlier to the effect that the people in the industrial constituencies were anxious that the farmers should get proper prices. That is true. No one wants to see the farmer producing at a loss. We know that he cannot go on doing so. But what industrial people are concerned about is the tremendous gap between what the farmer gets and what the industrial consumer pays.
May I give a personal illustration? In order to get the figures relating to these matters I ask my wife what she pays for certain articles. If there is anything of which I am fond, it is a grilled steak, and the other day at home I had a grilled steak which I enjoyed very much. I inquired what was the price of the meat, and I was told that it was 2s. 4d. per lb. I know that one pays more for the better cuts, but that is no explanation of the difference which exists between what the public pay even for the lowest-priced cuts and what the farmers get. I want to 2351 assist the farmer, but I want to know who is getting all that difference. We are entitled to ask before we pass this duty on beef what provision is being made for better marketing and for the elimination of waste.
I know that it is proposed under the Bill which is to come later to set up a Livestock Commission and an Advisory Committee. How many commissions and committees have already considered this problem, and what has been done with their reports? There are reports galore on this subject to be had in the Vote Office. Any hon. Member can have almost a library of reports which have been drawn up, particularly in the last ten years, on this question. The other day I read a very interesting report which was issued in 1933 by the Economic Advisory Council on the slaughtering of livestock. We are now proposing to set up a commission and a committee to do exactly what that council has already done.
Speaking as an industrialist, I do not profess to understand agriculture, but there appears to be something wrong somewhere in this matter. The farmer is not getting a square deal. The consumer is not getting a square deal. That is where the Government ought to start. and not by putting another penny on the consumer of the poorest kind of meat, the very meat that you do not want to compete with your own. Taxing the food of the poor is something to which I can never agree. It is a policy to which this party can never subscribe. Some day we shall solve the problem of production by stimulating demand. Some day we shall distribute God's gifts to those who need them. Some day we shall stimulate man's efforts instead of erecting barriers which destroy those efforts and result in the impoverishment of the whole human race.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Major DORMAN-SMITH
I shall not attempt to follow the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) in all he has said—and he covered a very wide field—but there are one or two comments which I would like to make on his speech. At the beginning he taunted the agricultural industry with being on the dole, instead of which I think he ought to join us in being heartily ashamed of the fact that the policy of this country has 2352 put its first and most important industry in that position. He spoke of raising food prices. The agricultural industry has to do one thing and that is to try to get its prices to an economic position and on a level which will enable it to carry on. I do not imagine that even Bradford would be able to carry on if it did not make some sort of profit out of the trade in which it is engaged. That is all we are trying to do. The hon. Member suggested that we ought to try to increase consumption. I agree and those of us who are engaged in agriculture sometimes wonder whether it would not be a good thing if the industrialists, who have so much to say to us, took a little less in profits and paid a little more in the form of increased wages to their workers. I think we are entitled to say that in view of some of the profits disclosed which, to us, are enormous—profits such as we do not notice in our own books.
I do not wish to go through the whole gamut of agriculture because I think this is a narrow problem. As I see it, this tax is entirely divorced from the Government's livestock policy. We have been told that whatever may be the result of the tax, however much it may bring in, we shall get a fixed sum of £5,000,000. I take it that when the Livestock Bill comes on there will be another Financial Resolution, when the whole matter will he dealt with. I support this Measure, but not because I think that of itself it will be of any help to the livestock industry. I do not believe the amount of this tax is going to be passed on at all. The Dominion goods which are to continue to come in free will have the effect of keeping Argentine prices much as they are, and, as I read the Argentine papers, they also rather anticipate it. I regret, too, that the Dominions are not to pay some toll for the use of this market. It is only right that they should pay something, and we in agriculture regret that they are getting off free. It has been announced to-day that it is the Government's policy that they shall get off free in this respect. I hope that any Gentleman's Agreement which they come to in future will be much better kept than the agreements have been in the past. What, I think, is the value of this measure is that it is some token that the Government are preparing to 2353 give protection to the standard of life of those who need protection.
There can be no doubt that those engaged in the livestock industry are definitely in need of protection. If we are to maintain our British standards and improve on them, those who are suffering from such competition as that from which we are suffering in the livestock industry will have to be given the necessary measure of protection, whether it be from goods coming from countries which do not want the same standard of cultivation, or from countries which do not want the same standard of life for their workers, as we do. Any section of the community has a right to ask for a shield against the advances of science, if those advances spell ruin to that section, until it can readjust itself to meet the new conditions. It is the advance of science in the livestock business which has taken away all that natural protection we used to have, and has left us open to the full blast of competition from abroad. It will be said that it is intolerable that the consumers of this country should not be able to take the fullest possible advantage of every advance of science and of all the abundance in the world.
I do not believe that this method we are using to help agriculture—taxes and restrictions—is the right and final way. I would much prefer to see the public have more money to spend, so that they could pay a fair and reasonable price for goods produced in this country. The time will come when those in authority will be forced to consider more seriously how we are to expand the purchasing power of the people. That may be some time ahead, and a lot of well-entrenched vested interests will have to be tackled before it can be done, but I think it will come about, and in the meantime I suggest that it is poor statesmanship to try to ease the position of the British artisan by trying to annihilate the British peasant. That is what. is happening now. Gradually the peasant class is going out of existence as surely as if a foreign army was walking through our lanes and depopulating our villages. That is one reason why I want to support this Measure, because it shows that the Government are prepared to go some way towards protecting that necessary peasantry. The second reason is that I cannot see why agriculture, and especially 2354 the livestock industry, should not have the same type of protection as is enjoyed by other industries, and under which other industries have expanded. We have to buy a tremendous amount of goods which are taxed, taxes which are borne by the farming industry alone. Here is a long list of them.
§ Major DORMAN-SMITH
I think it might be well that the Committee should understand some of them. Taxes on our fertilisers range from £4 a ton, and 20 per cent. ad valorem, to £1 a ton; implements and machinery, 30 per cent.; shovels, spades, scythes, forks, 15 per cent.; hay and grass-mowers, the humble plough, planters and seeders, reapers and binders, 15 per cent.; wire, 33⅓ per cent.; barbed wire, nails and staples—nearly everything we have to buy is taxed in some way or other.
§ Major DORMAN-SMITH
That we can argue. All I am arguing now is that in this case it is going to be no help to agriculture to raise prices. We have not, as farmers, once tried to stop these taxes being put on the goods which we buy. We only ask for the same treatment. We believe that this protection was necessary for the people working in these trades, and we cannot see why we cannot have the same type of protection as they are enjoying. It has been argued that we are enjoying protection by way of subsidies. I cannot see very much difference—it is a question of words—between them and an import duty such as these people have, which is, to my mind, an invisible subsidy. I do not know how much it would have cost the country if the motor trade had been helped to reach its present position by subsidies —many more millions than agriculture has ever seen—but, instead, they were given a tax on the horse-power rating. There is not much difference between the two, except that gradually, by forcing the agricultural industry into the acceptance of subsidies, the Government are getting more and more control over it. For that reason I loathe these subsidies, and would sooner have my taxes; but I would sooner still have industrialists paying more to their workers. We 2355 have not heard much to help the Government as far as alternative solutions are concerned.
The party opposite have some idea of import boards. Surely import boards would be more hard on the consumer than the policy which the Government now adumbrate. Import boards mean that the demand will be regulated and the supply will flow to meet that demand. They will be used to keep prices at a remunerative level. Import boards would, in fact, be used to restrict imports to keep up prices. The Liberal Opposition place a lot of faith in the internal organisation of the industry. I agree that it is up to the industry to do everything it can to reorganise itself from within, and now that the country is becoming willing to see agriculture reorganise itself, you will find that there will be a great advance in that direction. In the new Bill, there will be necessary powers for the industry to start that reorganisation, and I do not think that, if we can get the encouragement necessary—the encouragement of a fair economic price for our goods—the industry will be slow to set about reorganising itself, or that this House will be dissatisfied with what it does. That is for the future, and time is the essence of the contract at present. We have to take this subsidy as it is, and try to make the best of it, and hope that some day it will be unnecessary.
If dreams come true, that internal organisation is all that is necessary, nobody will be more glad than I am, but I doubt whether we shall ever be able to do away with all assistance when the Argentine can produce a beast for £8 10s. and in this country the cost is nearer £24. That gap has to be bridged somehow, and we have to see that we do not have to lower our standards to enable the consumer to enjoy the luxury of cheap food. I hope it will not continue to be thought that the consumer can go on running this great agricultural industry, that the industry must depend on the housewife with her basket. Although the housewife knows what she wants to buy, she does not know what is necessary for agriculture. I hope all parties will try to educate the consumer on what are the needs of the agricultural industry, and not let us go on being terrified of 2356 giving the other chap a chance to say, "You put up the cost of food." Otherwise, we shall not get much done. I have here a document from the Federation of Master Cotton Spinners in which they make this point. They say:A substantial rise in the wholesale price-level of farm produce and other basic commodities was essential to the revival of world trade … and of the cotton trade in particular.We are here trying to do something to give effect to that statement of the cotton trade interests. The House is occasionally inclined to think that agriculturalists are the most greedy of all classes and are most anxious for any chance of getting money from the Government. The philosophy of the industry, however, is summed up in the words of a Bill which was put through the New Zealand Parliament to ensure fixed prices for butter. The Bill states that the pricesshall be such that any efficient producer engaged in the dairy industry under usual conditions and in normal circumstances should be assured of a sufficient net return from his business to enable him to maintain himself and his family in, a reasonable state of comfort.That is all that the agricultural industry asks.
§ 7.17 p.m.
Mr. DAVID ADAMS
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury said that he hoped in the Measure he was submitting to reconcile the interests of the consumer, the producer and oversea trade. The Foreign Secretary similarly declared during the Abyssinian dispute that his intention was that the triple interests of Italy, Abyssinia and the League of Nations should be reconciled. I think we can justly conclude that in both the case of Abyssinia and that of the consumer, they are victims of Ministerial reconciliation. We were advised, moreover, that the object was to secure to the consumer the maximum of foodstuffs, subject to reasonable profits being made. The profit instinct in this relatively young Government which has 75 per cent. of its life still to go, will be permitted to have free rein. If there be any argument which can condemn the existing system more than any other, we have it illustrated in this Resolution, for in the admission that this country could have unlimited supplies of cheap goods, and all the requisites of a great industrial population, but that the 2357 interests of profit-making are to be secured through national scarcity, we are presenting an unanswerable argument to the masses of the people, when they have an opportunity to express their will again, that the existing system cannot supply them with the standards of existence which the age we live in so freely offers. I come from one of the distressed areas where the mining population when at work earn scarcely sufficient income, when deductions are made, to maintain a fair standard of living. Their wages average about 38s. per week inclusive of the advance recently granted and thus they are living just on the margin of subsistence. Thirty-two per cent. of the insurable population in my constituency are unemployed, and these are living well below the margin of adequate subsistence. It would be gross negligence on the part of any Member coining from such areas if he failed to register his protest against this proposal to increase the cost of certain of the essential foodstuffs. Before this proposal was submitted to the Committee it ought to have been demonstrated to us—and it has not been during this Parliament—that the agricultural industry as a whole is a depressed industry, that it does require remissions of rates and taxes and costly subsidies. From to-night onwards, as a beginning I suppose of a new era, we are to have the deliberate taxation of meat and other consumable commodities entering our ports from abroad.
It has been argued that the consumer does not pay the tax. If that were so, we should be greatly astonished at the rise that is taking place in the cost of living. All the commodities that are taxed automatically rise in price to an amount beyond the amount of the tax. The present tax is not a light one, being 20 per cent. of the value of the goods. Although we are informed by the Financial Secretary that £3,000,000 will be the amount of the tax, something far in excess of that amount will be taken from the consumers because the amount charged always shows a profit upon the tax itself. There has been no mention from the Treasury Bench of any protection for the consumer. There ought to be defence of this class. The Government are said to represent the masses of the people. They do represent the majority of the people. The consumer is entitled to proper considera- 2358 tion. There has, however, been no mention of him. The majority of the people are not able to compensate themselves by demanding and obtaining higher rates of wages, and there are few trades where the wages rise in harmony with the rise in the cost of living.
If the object is to stop the flow of imports it will impair our export trade, our shipping, and, in turn, our coal trade and employment generally in the country. A vicious circle into which the Government are entering. The reduction in the number of employés in the agricultural industry is one of the surprising facts of the situation. It is not sound to assert that men are leaving the land for the towns because agriculture is in an impoverished condition. The fact is that there are mechanisation, better management, and alteration in the system of production which, in the nature of things, are bound to operate, in the agricultural industry precisely as they do in others. The rise in the cost of living is becoming a serious matter. The index figure in November, 1932, was 43 per cent. above the pre-war figures; in November, 1935, 47 per cent.; and in November this year, no less than 51 per cent. For food alone the figure in November, 1932, was 25 per cent. above prewar; in 1935, 31 per cent.; and this year 36 per cent.!
The day is rapidly coming when the workers as a whole will be entitled to represent that their real wages are altogether lower than they ought to be because the cost of living, and particularly of food, has risen rapidly. Could not the Government, even at this late hour, turn their attention scientifically, calling in experts, to the question whether there cannot be a method adopted whereby increased and not diminished consumption could be the rule? That would be the solution of the problem of the farming industry. I am glad to be able to make this protest against the action of the Government, and to express the hope that the Government will fulfil the liabilities which they undertook not to diminish the standard of living but to raise it and to protect those who are least capable of defending themselves, and that they will turn their attention to the increase of consumption and not its diminution. These proposed 2359 duties are a flagrant abuse of Government authority.
§ 7.28 p.m.
Mr. ARTHUR DUCKWORTH
I shall not follow the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken through all the arguments that he put forward, but I should like to refer to one point that he made about the percentage level of prices in 1932, 1935, and to-day. He omitted to give us the figures for 1929 and 1931. I think I am right in saying that the general level for foodstuffs is to-day still below the figure for 1930 and 1931. Those of us who represent constituencies which are vitally interested in the livestock industry, and particularly in the production of beef, regard the proposals for the imposition of duties on foreign imports as a step that is long overdue. We recognise at the same time that the imposition of these duties alone cannot possibly provide any satisfactory solution of the problem of beef production in this country or bring relief from the distress which so many producers are suffering at the present time.
It is almost impossible to consider these duties unrelated to the whole of the Government's livestock policy, which is to be the subject of a Bill to be introduced at a later date, and for that reason we have found ourselves faced with some difficulty with regard to the scope of this Debate. What we have to consider mainly to-day is how far these duties are a necessary and desirable feature of the whole of the Government's policy. There is, I think, general agreement that the plight of the beef producers in this country is so desperate, and that beef production occupies such a very important place in the agricultural economy of this country, that some further steps, at any rate, are essential to bring assistance to the industry and to prevent a still more serious decline in production. The peculiar nature of the problem that confronts us was very clearly outlined in the speech made by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and it is clear that these duties are not intended to have, and cannot have, any protective effect. They must be regarded solely as an instrument for the collection of revenue, an instrument which will at the same time go some way towards offsetting the direct subsidy that is to be paid from the 2360 Exchequer; and as such these proposals have been criticised on two main grounds.
They have been attacked by hon. Members opposite and by the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holds-worth) on the ground that they are likely to increase the price of the cheapest class of meat and place a burden on the poorest consumers of this country. So far as the attack from the benches opposite is concerned, it seemed to me to be a very half-hearted attack. The hon. Member for South Bradford went further and delivered a denunciation of every form of assistance that could be given to the agricultural industry. But the main argument is only valid if it can be conclusively shown that these duties must inevitably lead to a rise in prices, and I believe there is no justification whatever for that assumption. In the first place, Great Britain is a monopoly buyer of beef. This is the only market in which the Argentine producer can place his products, and I believe that this is one of those exceptional cases in which the exporter will be obliged to pay the whole duty. It is a case in which the importing country can dictate the price to be paid, and if any further evidence is required for that proposition, it is clearly demonstrated in the great reluctance that has been shown on the part of the Argentine to agree to any form of duties at all.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
I am very interested in the hon. Member's argument, but perhaps he would like to know that our trade quotations throughout this week are already showing that an advance is being required by the shippers and exporters to meet the new duties. The quotations to the trade this week show an increase.
I am quite prepared to accept that as a fact, but I am very much surprised to hear it, and it seems to me that it is very early to offer that information as definite evidence that that is going to be the course of events in the future. Let me put forward another reason for thinking that there will not he any increase in prices. Surely the very fact that the Dominions have been excluded from the scope of these duties affords a further guarantee that any increase in price is extremely improbable. It seems to me that where you have such an enormous extent of 2361 free market still open, any tendency towards an increase of price is almost sure to be offset by the competition which will be met from the Dominions.
That leads me to the second line of criticism that has been brought against these proposals. Whatever may be said for excluding Dominion imports from the scope of these duties, it does, at any rate, represent a very definite departure from the statement of Government policy contained in the White Paper of July, 1934. That statement contemplated that duties would be imposed on all imports, and I am bound to confess that up to date at any rate it seems to me that no very adequate reasons have been brought forward to justify a departure from that statement. I regret that that departure has been made at this stage, for this reason: I have never believed, and I do not now believe, that adequate protection to the home industry can be given purely through the imposition of duties on imports from the Dominions or from foreign sources. The Ottawa Agreements are shortly coming up for revision, and I believe that we have already given away in advance the most powerful bargaining weapon that we could have held in our hands in respect of a class of imports in which the Dominions must inevitably be vitally concerned.
I should have no objection whatever to excluding imports from the Dominions if we had received some reciprocal advantage to compensate for the advantage which we are giving them. There is a very definite impression in this country that when the Ottawa Agreements were concluded the Dominions got very much the better of the bargain, and it seems to me that a situation cannot and should not be perpetuated in which we give the Dominions Imperial Free Trade and receive in return only a measure of Imperial Preference. I hope that that whole question may still be reconsidered. I recognise that these duties are only incidental to the whole of the Government's policy for dealing with the livestock industry. I recognise fully that the whole question of organisation, marketing, and many other problems have to be dealt with besides, but I believe that these duties represent at any rate a step in the right direction, and I shall certainly support them in the Division Lobby tonight.
§ 7.39 p.m.
Mr. C HATER
I wish to give an uncompromising opposition to the Resolution before the Committee, and I do so purely from the point of view that has been laid down this afternoon on a point of Order, that we are to regard this as a purely revenue-producing Resolution, having no relation whatever to future legislation. Taking it from that point of view, I want the Committee to realise the effects that the Resolution will have on some of the poorest of the population of this kingdom. I come from a constituency which, although it cannot be described as a depressed area, yet is one of the poorest in the whole of London, an area in which poverty is widespread, and not only so, but under the social and economic conditions of the system under which we live, must be perpetual.
I would ask hon. Members opposite to consider the effects of this tax upon imported meat on the people who live in my constituency. There must be simply thousands of working-class folk whose incomes, even when they are in regular employment, do not exceed £2 per week, and a tax of ¾d. per lb. on imported beef, I presume, will represent, when the folk in my constituency go to the local butcher's to buy their meat, at least a 1d. per lb. increase, because I assume, and I hope I assume rightly, that the whole purpose of the duty is to raise the cost to the consumer of imported chilled beef in order that its price may compare more favourably with that of English beef. If you take a working-class family of only five persons, and you are prepared to allow that they are entitled among the whole family to 6 lbs. of beef per week, it will mean a tax on them of 6d. per week. That may not sound a great amount to hon. Members opposite, but I can assure them that to the humble and poor folk who live in North-East Bethnal Green, where the conditions already for the majority of them are so economically stressful, another 6d. a week represents a real burden.
There is a large number also of unemployed people in that constituency who have no prospect before them except to live either on the dole, as it is called, or else on public assistance relief, and for them this will represent a deduction of at least 6d. a week from their already very limited means. When I come to 2363 survey the vast army of unemployed, I ask myself whether those responsible for introducing these Resolutions will be able, through the proper representatives in the Government, to get instructions conveyed to those responsible for the scales of relief to be given under the Unemployment Assistance Board that this extra 6d. a week which is to come out of the pockets of those people will be taken into account when assessing their means. Already in the East End of London I think it may be said that the Government's agricultural policy has, practically speaking, banished bacon from the breakfast table of the working classes, and I wonder how far they are prepared to pursue their agricultural policy in an attempt to raise the prices of imported meat in order that they may compare less favourably, with those of English beef.
I ask myself what, after all, is the objective of this tax. I presume it is to increase the consumption of English beef and to reduce the consumption of imported beef. I should be out of order in discussing the purpose to which this revenue is to be applied, but we know that a subsidy must eventually be given to the producers of English beef, and that seems to mean that the poor people in my constituency are to be mulcted in 6d. a week from their already limited income in order that a subsidy may be given to the producer of beef in this country. From one point of view, that may assist in keeping down the prices of British beef to the people who can afford to buy it much better than can the people in Bethnal Green. I should not complain so much if the policies which the Government have followed would, on balance, give more employment to the people of this country, but the net result of them is that if one unemployed man is put into work an employed man is automatically put out of work. It has already been admitted that there is no increase in the number of agricultural workers, and if we were able to reduce imports of Argentine beef by 50 per cent. what would be the result on employment? We should find a diminution of employment in shipping and in the business done in banking and insurance and in the work available at the wharves and docks of our ports. So, taking it all in all, I 2364 am doubtful whether any of these measures give on balance increased employment to our people.
In all these policies the Government are not taking a national point of view, rot planning agriculture on anything like scientific lines. Rather, the policy reveals the horns of the dilemma on which the Government find themselves. On the one hand they are afraid to increase the price of food to a point where it will lose them the votes of the working classes to a greater extent than they have already lost them, and on the other hand there are on the benches behind them representatives of the agricultural interests putting increasing pressure on them to do something for agriculture at the expense of the rest of the community. When faced with a choice of these alternatives, I can only say that under existing conditions I will stand unflinchingly against any increase in the cost of the food of the people, because I can see no prospect of the Government doing anything to give them increased spending power to meet the additional burden.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Major BRAITHWAITE
I do not want to intervene, except to challenge the speech made by the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth). He expressed himself in such vigorous terms in criticising the agricultural industry that I felt profoundly grateful that he and his associates were not in charge of the Government, because then the position of our agriculturists would indeed be quite forlorn. I am satisfied that the Members of the official Opposition are prepared to give the farmer and the farm worker, at any rate, a fair deal if a basis can be found which is satisfactory. We have been told that these are duties for revenue purposes, and therefore they do not interest very much the Minister of Agriculture. I should have thought the Government could have found many other better means of raising revenue. On the other hand, I should like to draw the attention of the Government to their original proposal, which appeared in 1934, when they definitely stated in a White Paper that they were prepared to help the livestock industry by putting a substantial duty on the whole of the meat imported, using the revenue for the purpose of maintaining fair prices at home. As has been pointed out by an hon. 2365 Member, the cost of raising meat in the Argentine is out of all proportion to what it is in this country, and the difference cannot be offset by a duty such as is proposed to-day, so we can definitely rule out of our argument the view that this duty will give any protection to the farmer or give him any greater share of the market to which he is justly entitled.
I am one of those who believe that agriculturists should be given an adequate and a proper opportunity, with a safe market. When I refer to a safe market I want the Committee to remember that farming in this country is not a short-term business. Farmers have to plan two or three years ahead if they are to do any good. They cannot say, "I will manufacture something to-day and sell it to-morrow." They have to look two or three years ahead and to have some idea of what they are going to receive for their products if they are to make a profit. If we can reasonably give farming that opportunity of looking ahead we shall find in this branch of agriculture the greatest possible scope for expansion. I regard the livestock industry as absolutely the foundation of British agriculture, and although these duties may not realise our hope of Protection they ought to give the Government a line, and if they prove to be satisfactory and without disadvantages we might be able to have a greater amount of protection under the cloak of these duties, in which case our own industry could expand without detriment to the people generally.
I am just as zealous as the hon. Member for South Bradford to see that the people get an adequate supply of food at reasonable prices, but I am opposed to the agricultural industry losing the whole of its capital and its hope for the future by supplying the people with food at prices below the economic cost of production. I ask the hon. Member for South Bradford to realise that over one-tenth of the working population of this country are dependent on the land for their living. When he criticises the policy of the Government on the ground that it will reduce the purchasing capacity of the public he is disregarding the fact that our own agricultural workers can buy from his constituents—from the manufacturers of this country—as much as the whole of the rest of Europe is buying from us to-day, if only agriculture is put on a proper basis. So I gladly support these 2366 duties and I hope they are the forerunner of a proper basis of Protection for agriculturists. They are worth protecting, worth helping in every way, because agriculture produces the soundest stock for our industrial as well as our rural occupations. If we are to have an A1 nation it is up to us to do everything we can to secure an adequate living for those who work on the land. I support the duties, and wish they were more, because I frankly believe that if we were given more our own costs of production might drop, and we should have a better opportunity of meeting competition. If these duties are to be used for the purpose of encouraging better marketing and other improvements I think they will serve a valuable and useful purpose for the nation, and I hope the Minister of Agriculture will take very good care that the whole of these revenues are collected and pocketed by him for use in his Department. I can assure him that the farmers of this country will do their share when they are called upon to do it.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. H. HASLAM
One or two hon. Members opposite have spoken as representatives of very poor constituencies. An hon. Member for a Durham constituency pointed out that he represents a depressed area, and an hon. Member from a London constituency said he represented an area only just above a depressed area. I speak for a, district of Lincolnshire which I, in company with other Members who represent agricultural constituencies, have been striving for the last four years to prevent from becoming a derelict area. Many hon. Members opposite have described agriculture as a kind of spoiled child. They say it is always having a great deal done for it, and has had too much done for it. The fact is that what has been done has, perhaps, saved agriculture from a dreadful fate, has perhaps saved many parts of the countryside from becoming derelict. Even to-day there is land out of cultivation and a great deal which is under-cultivated, for the simple reason that with the present wholesale prices agriculturists cannot get even a reasonable remuneration, let alone any sufficient return on their money, and cannot pay agricultural workers anything like the wages that highly-skilled workers in town industries can command. That is the situation at present.
2367 I do not think that anyone representing an agricultural constituency would wish to inflict further burdens on the poorer part of the community. Hon. Members who have asserted that this duty of ¾d. a lb. on foreign meat will fall in its entirety on consumers have not offered us very much proof of that contention. They have simply assumed the fact and then argued that it was a very bad duty. I will give the Committee one or two reasons why we may feel that the duty will not fall on the consumer in this country. In the first place the Argentine producers themselves have conducted their negotiations on the assumption that they will have to pay the whole of the duty and have fought against it. If it were all to be paid by the consumer surely they would not have minded, and would not have engaged in these protracted negotiations, because it would not have made any difference to them. There is also the factor that we are the main buyers of Argentine meat; and, further, there is little opportunity for the Argentine estancias to produce anything else. We had an illustration of the position in the case of the Irish Free State. The duties put on had very little effect on the price of meat in this country; in fact, I think they had no effect at all, but the Irish producer had to keep on, because in an occupation like agriculture, where stock raising is a vital part of the industry, one cannot stop. Another factor to be taken into account is the free importation of meat from the Dominions. On all those grounds I do not think this duty can be regarded as anything else than a revenue duty.
Hon. Members opposite have asked, "If it is only a revenue duty, how does it benefit British agriculture?" The reason why this duty, raising £3,000,000, will benefit British agriculture lies in the fact that the £3,000,000 goes into a fund which will be used to put the livestock industry on a better basis. That is the reason why this duty will benefit agriculture.
An hon. Member stated just now that he proposed to accept the duty if it could be shown that it would increase employment. It will increase employment, because if we can put agriculture eventually upon a decent basis, the agricultural community can buy largely from British manufacturers. The agricultural 2368 worker, the farmer and all those who are engaged in agriculture are always willing to buy British goods rather than foreign. We agricultural Members of Parliament have supported the Government throughout in imposing duties on foreign commodities, as upon iron and steel. Hon. Members of the Opposition voted for the duties on iron and steel, but when it came to putting a comparatively small duty upon some agricultural product, they went into the Lobby against it. All that agriculture asks is the same treatment as is received by other industries. In introducing these Resolutions, the Minister stated that the object of the Government was to enable the farmer and agricultural worker to obtain a reasonable remuneration for their labours. That is plain and simple, and we agricultural Members support that policy.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. RILEY
I have listened to the arguments that have been adduced to show whether or not the proposed duty will be paid by the exporters of chilled beef. I suggest that if the duty does not result in increasing the price of imported beef to the consumers in this country or in diminishing the supply of beef which is coming in here, it will not be of much use to the British farmer. Surely the object of the proposal is to enable the British farmer to have a higher price for home-produced beef and a larger market, by the curtailment of the possible supply—
§ Mr. HASLAM
May I interrupt the hon. Member? I did definitely say that the reason for this duty to bring in about £3,000,000 a year was to benefit the British farmer, and that it went to a fund to improve the livestock industry.
§ Mr. RILEY
The British farmer gets that £3,000,000 now. That is the obvious reply to the hon. Member. All that it means is that whereas the British farmer now gets it from the Exchequer, he will get it from the duty on foodstuffs consumed by the people. I oppose the Resolution because I feel in my very bones that it is one of the most indefensible and inequitable proposals made by any Government. It is not disguised that the object of the Resolution is to place a duty upon a commodity which is admittedly consumed by the poorer sections of the British people. It is not disputed that the obvious result 2369 will be to raise, out of a commodity consumed by the poorest people, over £3,000,000. It is intended to hand that £3,000,000 over to a section of the community who do not include the poorest classes. The duty will enable the farmer to continue to pay his rent to the landlord, and it is a contribution to help him in that work. In the second place, the subsidy of 5s. per cwt. will encourage the home producer to increase the supply of home-produced beef. The result of the increased supply has been that his prices have not risen; as a matter of fact they have gone down. The rich, the well-to-do, the Income Tax payer, get the benefit. They share in the £3,000,000, which is handed out by this proposal, and that is its outstanding effect.
Let me call the Committee's attention to the broad facts. Our total consumption of beef is roughly 26,000,000 cwts. per annum. Of that total 10,000,000 cwts. are imported chilled beef, mostly from Argentina. It is proposed to put upon those 10,000,000 cwts. a duty of ¾d. per lb., which looks very innocent upon paper. When you look into it, it is obvious that under this proposal the duty will be 7s. per cwt. or £7 per ton on all chilled beef imported into this country. Does the hon. Gentleman think, in his heart of hearts, that Argentina will stand the whole of that £7 per ton? It is useless to imagine that she will. But let us assume that that is the case, and that the exporter is going to stand it; it does not alter the fact that the benefit will go to a special class of the community. Assuming that Argentina does not charge any more after the embargo of £7 per ton is imposed, and that the consumer does not pay more, those who get the benefit are the Income Tax payers, the landowner and the farmer. They get the £3,500,000 in the shape of a reduction of costs for maintenance and rent; it also goes to the well-to-do who consume the home-produced meat.
It has been stated by the Minister that an import duty to the consumer, supplemented by a subsidy to the producer, is what the Government aim at. One comes back to the question: Who is to pay the subsidy? I do not think that the subsidy is necessary, and I take the view that there are remedies for agriculture other than subsidies from State funds. There are reorganisation and better marketing, that general reorganisation of 2370 the industry to put it on to a more businesslike footing. Who is to pay the subsidy? Giving assistance to agriculture in this way is calling upon the poorest of the poor to make a contribution towards an industry from which only the well-to-do will receive benefit. From every point of view it is obvious that this method of dealing with the agricultural situation is one of the most indefensible. No Government with self-respect should have the face to present it to any Parliament, and to ask people who are unemployed or the widow living on a widow's pension to contribute, in the price of the meat they buy, to the relief of people who are well-to-do and who can afford to pay the proper price, and a subsidy, if necessary.
I should like to add one word on the question of whether the duty will affect the price of meat to the poorest consumers. To-day there is a difference in the price of good chilled meat, the quality of which is not questioned, I suppose, oil the opposite side of the House. There is' a choice open to the consumer of having chilled meat at as low as 4½d. per lb. for the poor people, up to 7d. or 8d. for the best meat, as against British beef at 10d. per lb. up to as much as 1s. 3d. per lb. That is a difference of 4d., 5d. or 6d. per lb. It takes little imagination to see that, as long as that difference exists, the poorest people will naturally be confined to consuming imported meat—good meat, it is not disputed—and the people who will have the home-grown beef will be those who are in a position to buy it. The duty or subsidy of ¾d. per lb. will go to one class only. On those grounds I oppose the Resolution and I hope that the Committee will reject it.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. LEWIS
Earlier this afternoon, the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) argued that it was a serious matter to put a duty on imported foodstuffs. I could not follow him in some of the deductions which he arrived at from that argument, but I felt that the argument itself was perfectly sound. It is a very serious matter to put an import duty upon an article of food which is so widely consumed as beef. It requires, therefore, justification from any Government who propose such a step. We are invited in this Resolution to put on such duties. I feel that there was a 2371 good deal to be said for the contention, put forward by several hon. Members opposite, that the Resolutions should have been prefaced by a speech by the Minister of Agriculture telling us the purpose of the duty and of the policy of which they form a part. Instead of that, we had a speech from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. He made a brief and, if I may say so without offence, I thought rather perfunctory reference to the policy on which these Resolutions are based. It is quite true that, in reply to a question which I ventured to put to him, he admitted that there was a complete change in the Government's policy on the matter, but he declined then, apparently, to tell us why that change had been decided upon.
§ Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE
My hon. Friend will forgive me, but he only anticipated the points that I was going to put in my remarks in relation to that question.
§ Mr. LEWIS
I beg pardon. It is quite true that I interrupted him, and I had to realise that he did allude to them; I do not wish to misinterpret him in any way. But there is no doubt that there has been a great change in the attitude of the Government towards this matter. When the right hon. Gentleman who is now Secretary of State for Scotland was Minister of Agriculture, we were told on several occasions, both in speeches and in command papers, that in the view of the Government the best long-term policy for meat was a policy of import duties on meat from all sources with a preference for the Dominions. To-day that is not the proposal that is put before us. Instead of that, we have these Resolutions proposing duties on meat coming from certain countries, and excluding the idea of any duty on meat coming from Dominion sources. There is, to my mind, one grave objection to this modified policy. It is that, on the admission of the Government's spokesmen themselves, it will not suffice to provide the money required. These duties are not expected to yield enough to provide the money which the Government feel is required to secure an adequate return to the grower in this country.
The example, which we all have before us, of the Wheat Act, appears to have 2372 been completely ignored. That showed us how it is possible to reconcile two largely conflicting purposes—the purpose of securing an adequate price to the home grower and the purpose of ensuring the consumer the widest possible sources of supply from overseas. I quite admit that there are certain peculiar features with regard to wheat which made the application of those principles easier in that case than. in the case of meat, but I have yet to learn that there are any insuperable difficulties in applying precisely the same principles to meat which were then applied to wheat. There seems to me to be an element of justice in the basis on which the proposals for wheat were made. The British farmer was in grave difficulties because of the importation of large supplies from abroad at low prices, and surely, if we desire agriculture to continue in this country, it is not unreasonable to say that those sources of supply from overseas which are themselves the cause of the home difficulty should contribute to removing that difficulty. That was the principle of the Wheat Act, and it is no doubt partly the principle of these Resolutions, but in my view it would have been far more completely and satisfactorily achieved if the Government had stuck to their original proposal in the case of meat, and put a duty on all meat coming from overseas, with a preference to the Dominions.
The House of Commons has been very patient in this matter. The last Minister of Agriculture repeatedly came to us and asked for time. He asked for temporary subsidies, temporary Acts were passed, and, as I say, the House was very patient. It was felt in all parts of the House that it was not unreasonable, in view of the complicated and difficult nature of the problem that he had to face, that he should be given time to work out the complete details. I cannot say that I, for one, regard these Resolutions as a fair reward for that patience. It may be argued, on the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread, that these proposals are better than nothing, and I accept that as far as it goes, because I believe it to be true. But I think it is a great misfortune that those principles which were so clearly enunciated on several occasions by the last Minister of Agriculture, have been departed from. I understand that the Secretary 2373 to the Overseas Trade Department is to reply to this Debate. I should like to ask him, if he will, to devote at any rate a few minutes of his reply to answering this question: Why have the Government changed their policy with respect to meat coming from the Dominions? How have the Dominions succeeded in cajoling or frightening them into giving up part of their policy? Before we are asked to assent to these Financial Resolutions tonight, we are entitled to put that question, and we are entitled to expect an answer to it. I would point out that we are not now being asked, as we have been before, to do something of an admittedly temporary character; we are being asked to take the first step in a permanent policy so far as this Government is concerned, and I think the question I have mentioned is one that it is reasonable to ask, and one to which it is reasonable to expect a considered reply.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. BARNES
The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) has referred to the permanency of the tax that we are considering to-night. We are familiar in the House of Commons with taxes imposed for revenue purposes, and, until the advent of the National Government, that principle was characteristic of the fiscal system of this country. It was a policy that the average citizen could clearly understand, and the equity and incidence of any tax could be followed. The National Government have already complicated our fiscal and financial system by introducing a method of taxation designed probably to adjust the costs of production overseas as against home production, and to improve the earning capacity of the home manufacturer. Now we are considering the imposition of a tax of an entirely different character—a tax which is being imposed on one section of the citizens of this country on a commodity that they consume, and the revenue from which is to be earmarked as a gift for another section of citizens in this country. The group of citizens who are to be taxed are the poorer element of the community to whom my hon. Friend has referred, while the recipients of the tax are the more wealthy members of the community.
§ Mr. BARNES
I do not agree that the recipients are still poorer. If the hon. Gentleman is referring to the agricultural worker, I should be inclined to agree with him. If some of these bountiful gifts from the State found their way to the worker, that would alter our attitude towards some of these doles that are being given to the agricultural community. But we see no evidence that the generosity of the Government in the matter of doles to the farmers is raising the standard of the agricultural worker.
§ Mr. BARNES
I should say he is a very submerged and a very inferior partner. However, when we are considering the imposition of duties as part of the permanent fiscal system, it is desirable to point out how vicious is the principle of taxing one class of citizens for the purpose of making a direct gift to another. It is also interesting to contrast the attitude of the Treasury tonight with its attitude towards the Road Fund on the last Budget. The Chancellor was then at some pains to explain that it was undesirable to earmark any tax for a specific purpose although Parliament, when it imposed the very heavy taxation on motorists, justified it on the ground of the heavy cost that would have to be met in transforming the highways to meet the new form of motor traffic. The Chancellor a few months ago abolished that principle as far as motor taxation is concerned, and now we are to have a tax on an important food commodity for the purpose of making a gift to another group of individuals.
The procedure to-night is also open to criticism. On five different occasions since 1934 the Government have asked us to vote supplies for this branch of the agricultural industry, and altogether we have voted roughly £11,000,000 for the purpose of helping the breeders of cattle. Yet the Financial Secretary admitted that the pouring in of £11,000,000 into the industry has in no way remedied the position. I think we were at least entitled, even within the limits of the Ruling of the Chair, to some indication as to why the Government believe that the continuance of this payment will improve the state of the industry. The Financial Secretary merely outlined the 2375 commodities upon which the tax would fall and those upon which it would not. fall, but he advanced no reason for the-tax itself. He indicated that this duty of ¾d. a lb. on chilled meat represented 20 per cent. of the value of the imported commodity, and that the two-thirds of a penny duty on frozen beef also represented 20 per cent. of the value. Can we have some statement as to how this value is arrived at? Is it on particular sections or joints or parts of the carcase, or are you arriving at that calculation on the whole carcase?
In relating this to the consumption of these commodities, I should like to support the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) that it is the poorest section of the community that will pay the tax. Sir John Orr stated that the low-purchasing groups consume, roughly, 20 ounces per head per week of meat, and the higher-purchasing groups consume on an average 50 ounces. If we analysed the purchasers of the group that consume only 20 ounces a week, we should find that that group, with hardly an exception, purchases frozen and chilled meat. The higher-purchasing groups in the main purchase English and Scotch beef. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Petersfield (Major Dorman-Smith) stated that the real long-term solution of this problem was for the industrial population to have higher wages. I entirely agree. If you want agriculture to get on a permanently prosperous basis, the only way to do it is to raise the buying power of the industrial workers. I speak on this from actual experience. During the War I was president of the largest co-operative organisation in the country. When the workers were fully employed and their wages were relatively high, practically the whole of the meat sold from our shops was English. It is absurd to suggest that any British working man purchases frozen or chilled meat from inclination. He buys it only because his pocket will not allow him to go to English meat. At that period practically the whole of our sales consisted of English meat. That persisted until we moved into the economic slump of 1920 and widespread unemployment developed. Hon. Members opposite and their friends, and their Press, led an agitation for reducing 2376 wages, and wages fell considerably. The working people could no longer buy English meat, and they were compelled to demand the cheaper joints. By reason of that method and because of the fact that we have had the importation of overseas supplies, we have had the collapse of the British agricultural industry. If the Financial Secretary to the Treasury wishes to know how we should grapple with this problem if we were the Government, I will tell him. We would not grapple with it by putting a tax upon frozen meat and making the poor pay so that the rich could be excused from taxation. We would so arrange the economy of this country as to give the workers decent wages, and then we should get a prosperous agricultural industry.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Sir E. SHEPPERSON
I was interested in listening to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes). He assumed that the lower purchasing power of the workers caused them to buy imported frozen or chilled meat, and that the more wealthy section of the community were able to purchase English meat. I would ask him whether, in his opinion, the Members of the Committee are in the category of lower paid workers or of the more wealthy individuals, because I have been led to understand that when we in this House have lamb for our dinner, it mostly comes from New Zealand.
§ Mr. BARNES
I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that his party have a majority on the Kitchen Committee.
§ Sir E. SHEPPERSON
I have no intention of detaining the Committee on this matter for more than a very few minutes, but I feel that I have a duty to the Committee to express my appreciation for this Financial Resolution and the Measure that we are to-day discussing. I myself some four of five years ago, believing in the taxation of meat, had the courage in this House to put down an Amendment to the Import Duties Bill taking meat out of the free list and letting it be subject to a 10 per cent. duty and any further duty that the Advisory Committee might ultimately suggest. The reply given to me at that time by the President of the Board of Trade was that I was asking for a tax upon meat, the essential food of the people, and that 2377 such a tax would be detrimental to the interests of our large industrial towns in sending up food prices. Therefore, in the interests of those industrial towns, the Government could not accept my Amendment. I took it to a Division and naturally lost. It could not be accepted because it might increase the price of food.
The Ottawa Conference came along. I often think that at that time, in the early years of the National Government, when we had as Members of the Government such renowned Liberals as Sir Herbert Samuel, a tax on food was ruled out of the question. Ottawa decided to adopt, as a means of raising commodity prices, the quantitative regulation of imports. I have never yet been able to understand how it is possible for an individual to accept the raising of commodity prices by quantitative regulation of imports and at the same time refuse to have the price raised by the simple, straightforward method of tariff. However, Ottawa decided for the quantitative regulation of imports. But I stuck to my guns, and, at the time that those quantitative regulations of imports were being discussed, I still maintained my preference for a duty rather than for the quantitative regulations. The reply given to me then was that what we all wanted was to raise commodity prices and that the experience was that a tax upon meat would not raise commodity prices and therefore would do no good. Two years before my advocacy of a tax on meat could not be accepted because it would raise prices, and two years afterwards it could not be accepted because it would not raise prices
To-day I am in the position that at long last we have before the Committee that which I have advocated for the last four or five years, namely, a tax upon meat. I have never yet found out whether the Members of the Government are of the opinion that it will raise commodity prices or whether it will not. I therefore speak definitely in favour of the Resolution bringing meat within the scope of a tax for the first time in its history. But I have some criticism to make, and it is a criticism that is being made, I think, in many parts of the Committee. This is a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough. The figure is not sufficiently high to meet the demand that will be made, and 2378 it does not include—it is a, criticism that we all have to make—the Dominions. Personally I have always favoured, and shall always continue to favour, the principle of dealing with imports not by quantitative restriction of imports; not by raising the price by quantitative restriction, but by a straightforward tariff and by giving a substantial preference to the Dominions. That would not raise the price to the consumer.
We are dealing with ¾ on the lb. We producers are selling meat at somewhere round about 5d. or 6d. a lb., and consumers are to-day paying is. 2d. or ls. 4d. a lb. Therefore there is plenty of margin to enable us to get a penny without the consumers having to pay anything more for their meat. f suggest that this proposal, making foreign meat subject to tax, will not affect the consumers in the least, and that the tax can be borne by the distributive agencies as distinct from the producers and the consumers. I would have liked to have seen the Government fulfil the policy which we understood they were going to bring forward to deal with meat, that of the levy-subsidy principle; the same policy as was being applied to other agricultural commodities, such as milk products, bacon and so on. I regret that they have to this extent departed from that principle. They have had the illustration of the Wheat Act, which has worked well and smoothly, and I still think that it might, have been possible to adapt their meat, policy somewhat on the lines of the wheat policy; to have given a standard figure of the price the producer wanted to receive for his meat, and to have a flexible levy on all imported meat, with preference to the Dominions, which would go into a fund, kept solvent in order to pay the deficiency price as between the standard figure and that at which the cattle was sold by the producer.
It would have been possible to have had something of that description, which would not have been resented by the Dominions. If they had been given a substantial preference under the levy I believe they would have accepted it. We should then have been in the position that the levy could have been made flexible and the fund always kept solvent. If world prices of meat rose the levy would fall, because the deficiency pay- 2379 ments would go down. That is not the policy of the Government, but I hope that in the future, when easier conditions obtain, they will adopt that policy which they themselves put forward in the White Paper. In the meantime, because this is the first occasion on which what I have advocated for five or six years, namely, a straightforward tariff, is being applied, I shall give the Resolution my support.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. E. J. WILLIAMS
We are grateful to the hon. Member for explaining to us the difficulties that he finds in the agricultural industry, and particularly for pointing out how easy it would be to solve this problem if we had co-ordination from the producer to the consumer and the removal of the intermediaries who, he contends, are consuming the enormous profits made by the producers.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
It would seem that if 5d. or 6d. is the margin of difference between the producer and consumer a substantial sum of money is running to waste, so that the Government should tackle the question of re-organisation if they are to carry out the substance of the hon. Member's remarks. To-night many hon. Members have had the pleasure of listening to a representative of New Zealand in this country. We have had a practical demonstration from him of how it is possible to solve the agricultural problem in dealing, first, with what the land should produce and, secondly, guaranteeing a price level for the products of the land. He suggested that it would be practicable if we dealt with the differences of the home market as well as the foreign market, and he showed how it would be possible for persons in this country engaged in the production of manufactured goods to consume agricultural products if they were given a reasonable purchasing capacity. I have had occasion many times in this House to say that the farmers in my constituency never complain, except as farmers would normally complain, that they were suffering grave losses when the miners were paid a reasonable wage. Most hon. Members would agree that if the consumers of beef and other agricultural products in this country were paid 2380 a living wage that would enable them and their dependants to subsist properly, the products of agriculture would command a reasonable price and the persons engaged in that industry, including the agricultural labourer, would be paid a fairly decent wage.
The Government are carrying out precisely the policy that hon. Members on this side of the Committee would expect them to carry out. They are carrying out in this proposal another piece of class legislation. That is precisely what we expect the Government to do. I should be surprised if they did anything to improve the lot of the poor. The purpose of the Government is to remove as far as possible any burden which they conceive to be borne by the rich. That is precisely what this Resolution is for. It is to enable those who can purchase English beef to purchase it at as cheap a price as possible at the expense of the poor, who have to consume chilled beef because they cannot afford to purchase anything else. The miners have to consume cheap beef, not because they desire to eat chilled beef but because they receive 32s. to 35s. if they are unemployed or 42s. to 45s. a week if they are employed. Upon these people who are unemployed, who are subject to the means test, or in receipt of unemployment benefit, and the miner who is paid on an average not more than £118 a year, this extra cost of ¾d. per lb. is to be placed. These are the people upon whom the Government expect to build the revival of the agricultural industry. The Government should face up, first, to the problem of the enormous rent charged by landowners and the enormous interest charged on mortgages to the person who has to borrow money.
I do not know whether the hon. Member was here at the beginning of the Debate, when I ruled that it is very strictly limited.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I feared that I should not be able to deal with Government policy as such, but the Amendment which stands in the name of some of my hon. Friends suggests that this matter shall be deferred so long as the means test applies in this country; that it shall be deferred for 12 months until the Government has had an opportunity of reconsidering the whole matter. I presume that during 2381 that time they would see how the means test was being applied in other parts of the country, particularly on the basic trades, in which we have a large number of persons aggregated in what are now designated the Special Areas.
§ Captain EUAN WALLACE (Secretary, Overseas Trade Department)
On a point of Order. May we be informed where the Amendment about the means test comes in? The only Amendment that I can see is one which suggests that in line 3, after "thirty-six" there should be inserted "until the tenth day of December, nineteen hundred and thirty-seven," and another Amendment, that in line 7, at the end, there should be inserted, "and, being Empire products, duties of customs at half the rates so specified."
In regard to the Amendments referred to, the first one would not have the effect suggested by the hon. Member, and if the hon. Member in whose name that Amendment stands is going to move it, the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. J. Williams) had better not anticipate the discussion on it. The second Amendment is out of order.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I will leave the Amendment to my hon. Friend. I presumed that it would be in order to make comments on the Amendment standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley), who has in mind the burden that will fall upon the consumer under the proposed increase of ¾ per lb. He was hoping that it would be possible, by the acceptance of his Amendment, to defer this burden for at least 12 months. The Government ought to be prepared to accept an Amendment of that kind. I am not going into the merits of the question, but I hope the Government will appreciate that there is some substance in the Amendment. I should like to refer to what was said by the hon. Member for Leominster (Sir E. Shepperson) and the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis). I can understand why the hon. Member for Colchester was not favourable to what the Government are doing. He foresees what will happen. He realises that if this extra burden is to be placed upon poor people who are wage earners the time will shortly come when those wage earners will demand an increase in wages 2382 in order to meet the rise in prices. That is certainly what the hon. Member had in mind, although he did not positively say it. He spoke as one interested in the manufacturing industry concerned with the probability that the workmen of this country would seek to remedy what the Government are doing by demanding an increase in wages at least equal to the increase in prices imposed upon them as customers. That is a remedy which I hope trade unions will take in regard to all proposals of this nature which come before the Committee. About £11,000,000 is to be handed to the farmers, and yet the Government hand out only a miserable sum of money to relieve the dire distress in our depressed areas, not to revive industry but because it has some propaganda value as a presumption of their sympathy for the million and a half and their dependants who are in penury due to the Government's own policy.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I am endeavouring to keep within the limits of the Debate, which I appreciate are very narrow indeed. I am hoping that Special Areas represented by Government supporters will realise how the Government are not helping these Special Areas by any financial aid, but are actually taxing them as consumers. I am hoping that the Special Areas will realise what the Government supporters who represent them are doing in such proposals as this. There can be no doubt that this Resolution is designed to hit hardest the people who are receiving the least income. The Treasury will save £3,000,000, and this burden will be placed upon the poor, because out of their poverty they are compelled to buy chilled beef.
§ 8.59 p.m.
Miss LLOYD GEORGE
An hon. Member opposite who criticised the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Holdsworth) suggested that hon. Members on these benches were not alive to the state of the agricultural community. I repudiate that suggestion most strongly. I represent an agricultural community where the conditions are lamentable. Not within the memory of living man have the conditions been worse in the island I represent than they are to-day. It is the greatest mistake to assume that the in- 2383 terests of the towns and the countryside are conflicting. To me they seem to be the same. After all, we are all members of one body, and I cannot think of anything which will benefit the agricultural community more than really effective action to assist the distressed areas and increase the purchasing capacity of the unemployed.
Nothing has convinced me more of the futility of these suggested measures to assist farmers than the speeches of hon. Members opposite. They are pinning their faith to Protection. That is their policy. But what they are doing is that, while they are protecting farmers from one competitor they are exposing them to other competitors who are becoming increasingly formidable. While they are putting up a shelter to the agricultural community in one direction they are taking down a shelter in a quarter from which the prevailing wind is coming. I cannot see that it matters very much to the farmer any more than it did to Abel whether it is his brother or a stranger who does him in. The thing which is of vital importance is that he is done in.
We have been told by hon. Members opposite that these are only revenue producing duties, that there is nothing new in them and that it is no matter of concern to the Minister of Agriculture, as one hon. Member said, except in so far as these duties are going to pay for the subsidy. It is another example of the good old-fashioned theory, which is dying very hard, that the foreigner pays. It is only a device by which he burden instead of being placed upon the shoulders of the taxpayer is going to be placed on the shoulders of those who are less able to bear it. There is nothing new in it, say some hon. Members. If that is true, it is really not going to assist the farmer. He is still going to depend on the subsidy, and will hon. Members opposite seriously say that the subsidy has benefited the farmer very greatly or that he is getting higher prices as a result of it? My farmers are not, and I should like to hear whether other hon. Members have a different experience. The subsidy has hardly made a fraction of difference to his position.
The salvation of the agricultural industry is not going to come that way, and I think the Government might 2384 profitably inquire where the subsidy is going. This House has been prepared to pay out money to assist the farmer over what is considered to be an emergency period, but I doubt very much whether it would have been prepared to pay a subsidy which is certainly not going to the farmer, and which I have more than a shrewd suspicion is going to the middleman. I do not think hon. Members are prepared to vote him a subsidy. The only thing which is really going to affect the situation—and the Government will have to come to it in the end—is the reorganisation of marketing. The margin between what the producer gets and what the consumer pays is far too wide, and if the problem of marketing was seriously tackled by the Government, I think it would be possible to secure higher prices for the producer without raising prices to the consumer. I know that there are difficulties. There are vested interests to be tackled; very uncomfortable and unpleasant things to tackle. It needs a great deal of courage, but unless the Government does take its courage in both hands and tackles this problem you cannot restore prosperity to agriculture in this country.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
I would like to intervene for a few minutes because I understand the Secretary of the Overseas Trade Department is to wind up the Debate. It was part of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's duty at the time to make a very particular inquiry into the distressed areas, and he made a report on the distressed areas which was the most profound document that had ever been laid before the House. The right hon. Gentleman is to wind up the Debate to-night, and I ask him whether, in view of all that is embodied in that report and of his experiences, which bit deeply, he is prepared to put his name and influence behind a proposal which will increase the cost of living to the people in those areas about which he knows more than any Member in this House. As has been said to-night, if the tax which is to be imposed does not restrict imports and increase prices, it has no reason for being introduced.
Surely hon. Members cannot be fully alive to the responsibility of their actions when they begin to indulge in a process of eccentric taxation. A few months ago 2385 we were told that it would not be appropriate to have specific taxation for any given section of the community, but here a special tax is to be collected. It is a tax which the poorest of the poor will have to pay. I almost collapsed when I hear a good old-fashioned Conservative opposite try to advance the argument that the foreigner pays the tax. The funny thing about it was that just before he got up—he must have been sleeping—the hon. Member for Petersfield (Major Dorman-Smith) was on his feet and reading a long list of commodities which the farmers have to use, that are taxed. He advanced the argument that because the farmers have to pay heavy taxes on these imported articles, they are entitled to receive this appropriation to-night. That did not in any way seem to penetrate the skulls opposite. There are some hon. Members—why they come here I do not know—[Interruption]—I agree with the cheers when I look at hon. Members opposite—whom I would like to put through a fourth-form boys' examination in economics and see where they stand. This House is supposed to be a deliberative Chamber, but arguments pass over some hon. Members like water off a duck's back.
Let me return to the subject. I want seriously to ask whether the Secretary of the Overseas Trade Department, in his heart of hearts, assents to this in principle. I cannot believe that he does. Some hon. Members have asked where all these millions of money are going. We have been told that poor agriculture is a timid thing that needs protection. One hon. Member said that the one section of the community that wanted protection was agriculture. Millions of pounds have been given already by way of protection. It would be interesting to go round to every hon. Member, except those on this side, and ask him where the money that has already been voted is going. There is a nice little row of hon. Members opposite. I challenge any one of them to answer that question.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
The hon. Member has been saved from an awkward posi- 2386 tion. It has been suggested that the farmers are not getting that money.
I think the hon. Member did not quite follow what I said. I said his question was out of order.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
What question? I am not putting any question at the moment. I am suggesting that during the Debate this afternoon it has been admitted that the farmers are not the recipients of these benefits that are going out in the form of monetary gifts. Certainly the agricultural labourers do not seem to be receiving them. There are three parties to this industry. There is the farmer, there is the agricultural worker and there is another gentleman who always gets his tribute from farming, whether it is doing well or not, and he is the landlord, the rent-receiver. It is no good smiling, as I see the hon. Member for Petersfield is, because whether farming is in a good condition or a bad one, that toll is paid, and I hope at another time, when it will be more appropriate, to prove by figures and facts that that is where these millions are going.
Until the rents of the agricultural areas of this country are deflated and prices are brought down to a competitive level, as they could be if there were not these tolls to be paid in rent, you are living in a fool's paradise. This appropriation to-night is part and parcel of an injection of a sort of intoxicating drug; agriculture must be kept going by new and fresh injections of public money. If there should be a change in the policy of the Government, agriculture will get the shock of its life. If it came to that now, I honestly believe that agriculture in this country dare not try to live from day to day without large drafts on the taxation of the country. I do not know what hon. Members who are farming experts and representatives of agricultural districts in this country think when they go to Denmark and see a small country—
I ruled at the beginning of this Debate that hon. Members could not go into the general question of agricultural policy. The hon. Member must keep within that Ruling.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
To-night we are voting public money. We are doing more 2387 than that—we are using the weapon of taxation to screw money out of the public to the advantage of certain sections of the community under the guise of helping agriculture. I ventured to make a comparison with another country where agriculturists do not appeal to the Government for money but where they have organised a great agricultural industry and have refused subsidies. Here in this country we have hon. Members opposite going on their weary way and telling us that agriculture is withering, that there is no blood in it, and that it requires fresh injections from the Treasury. I want to know what the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department has to say about this. I ask him, in all sincerity, whether he is going to place his influence and his name behind this project, knowing as he does the conditions in the distressed areas which he visited and examined? He knows that it is the poor people who will have to pay this tax if they are able to buy meat at all. Is he, then, going to identify himself with those who propose to take this action to-night?
As to the fuller discussion which is to take place on the Bill when it is introduced, I hope to be able to say a good deal more on that occasion if I get the opportunity. All this afternoon I have listened to speeches in which Members have tried to correlate the broader question of the conduct of agriculture with the proposal before the Committee. The Chair has been in a rather difficult position, and each Member who spoke appeared to be wondering how far he could traverse the ground of the general question. I submit that it was not fair on the part of the Government to bring in this proposal to-night under the shadow of the forthcoming Bill in such a way that the Committee has been compromised as regards the wider discussion of all the facts involved in this question. I make my complaint and I leave it at that, but I hope that when the Bill is presented for Second Reading, nothing that has been said in this discussion will be taken as compromising us as regards a fuller debate and analysis of the subject.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
I should like, in the first place, to reinforce the last 2388 point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren). I have sat through the whole of this Debate, and I am bound to say that it has been one of the most unsatisfactory Debates, on a matter of such vital importance, to which it has ever been my lot to listen in Committee of Ways and Means. That is largely because of the technical difficulty in which the occupant of the Chair—to whom no blame can possibly attach—has been placed. Under the Ruling which he felt bound to give, we have been precluded from discussing in the fullest sense the very issues which the Financial Secretary to the Treasury put to the Committee in the opening sentences of his speech. What were those issues? I took them down as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was speaking from his carefully prepared financial brief. He said, first, that these Resolutions and this duty were essential for the assistance of the cattle industry but while we are being asked to vote money for that purpose, in Committee of Ways and Means, we have not been allowed to debate that issue, nor have we had the advantage of the technical advice of the Minister of Agriculture with regard to it. That is a most unsatisfactory position for this Committee.
The Financial Secretary then went on to explain the course of events in the cattle industry. He spoke of the slump, gradually increasing from 1931 during 1932, 1933, and 1934. He said that prices had remained at a low level, and he mentioned the Ottawa restrictions on foreign supplies. He thus led us into a sphere of debate in which we ought to have been free to develop our arguments with regard to the cattle industry in general, and the position in which the Government say their long-term policy now requires this special aid to be given by means of a tax upon meat. I do not presume to ask for any greater latitude than has been extended to other Members of the Committee, but I repeat the protest of my hon. Friend who has just spoken. We ought not to be asked to vote this money, weeks in advance of the Second Reading of the Livestock Industry Bill, to Clause 3 of which this Resolution is essential and, with regard to the other proposals of which, it would have been very much to our advantage if we had been able to discuss the whole 2389 subject fully before deciding on the way in which we are to vote this money.
I, therefore, approach the matter mainly from the point of view of one who is considering the fiscal issue involved in the Resolution. Judging from the attendance to-day the House of Commons does not seem to mind the fact that it is being asked to pass, in Committee of Ways and Means to-day, a Resolution which, if it is nothing very new to some hon. Members, is in fact a milestone on the road of the fiscal deterioration of our nation. All the great supporters of the policy of Protection before the War, including the late honoured protagonist of Protection, Joseph Chamberlain himself, maintained that the one vital thing which Protectionists must keep in mind was "You must not tax meat, and you must not tax bread." To-night we see that the high priests of post-War Protection are pushing the country into the position of taxing the one essential thing which the former high priests of that policy declared to be the one commodity that must not be touched—the food of the people. Instead of having anything like a full Debate on the subject we have had a sparse attendance and we have been handicapped by the Rules of Procedure, because of the order in which the Government have placed these matters on the Paper.
That must not prevent us from dealing with the situation as it reveals itself. We are being asked to do to-night—and to do it especially for the Treasury in the financial year 1936–37—just what those of us who oppose Protection have always said the Protectionists wanted to have done and that is to broaden the basis of taxation when it is inconvenient for the Treasury to find what is required. The Financial Secretary has admitted that it is revenue which is wanted. There is no real vital change in the assistance given to the farmer. The Government are already committed to a maximum of £5,000,000. The Treasury has found millions for this purpose in the last two financial years but it is inconvenient in the present state of the British Exchequer for the Chancellor to find the £5,000,000 this year out of direct taxation. Therefore, he proposes to find it by the indirect method of taxing the consumers of meat.
2390 I think the way in which the public of the country have been misled with regard to the financial position of this Government is perfectly disgraceful. I have said it before, in full session in the House of Commons. I say it again in Committee of Ways and Means to-night, and I shall go on saying it. If a Labour Government were proposing, at this moment, the Budget of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, all the financial interests in this country would be trying to hound us out of office on the ground of the unsoundness of the budgetary position and the methods by which we were proposing to meet it. One of the methods which this Government is proposing to-day is to add once more to the indirect taxation, obtained through the commodities used by the poorest of the people. Since 1921 this Government and the preceding National Government have increased the taxation of food by over £20,000,000 per annum. They have increased the taxation of commodities used by the people, not to the extent of the mere £20,000,000, but £85,000,000 per annum more than in 1931. The former Financial Secretary to the Treasury who has proceeded to the higher post of Minister of Agriculture, and the present Financial Secretary, know full well that if it had not been for the introduction of this indirect taxation on the commodities which the people use, the Government could not meet even their present budgetary position, with an unknown deficit looming up, without putting at least another 1s. 9d. or 2s. in the pound on Income Tax. The country has been wangled, misled, bamboozled—
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
—by the way in which revenue has been raised to meet these demands. To-day we are asked to put on the common people the worst form of all taxation, the taxation of meat. We have heard many suggestions about why this tax on meat is not going to be met by the consumer but, in some miraculous way, by the foreigner. We on these benches are often charged with using our co-operative association for an illustration of our case. But there is no better way in which to illustrate arguments used in the House than to speak of actual experience in trade and business, and it is no dis- 2391 qualification of Members on this side that we are engaged day by day in trade and business. If hon. Members who profess to know about this industry will look at our position I think that they will see why we can prove that this tax will be met by the consumer. The organised consumers for whom I am always proud to speak, both in this House and elsewhere, cannot be, and have no right to be, regarded as the enemies of the British farmer. They are the best, the most regular and the best paying customers of the British farmer. I heard a whisper from the Front Bench; I will not repeat what it was, but if there is any doubt let one look at the Economic Series, 1920, the Report of the Ministry of Agriculture on the marketing of cattle and beef in England and Wales. It says:It may be accepted without question that the industrial co-operative societies are the most important customers for the British farmer both in the amount and in the quality of the supplies that they buy.We are now asked to believe that the consumer is not going to be asked to pay this extra duty. Let me take first of all that section of the Resolution on the Paper to-day which deals with canned goods. I hold in my hand a copy of a letter which we received, dated 9th December, from Henry Lane and Company, packers, in which they are quoting to us, because of the new duties, increases of price on canned beef varying in one small case from 3.9 per cent. up to 9 per cent. In this section the increase in duty is to be about 10 per cent., so that already, before the duty begins to operate, we are quoted prices which pass on nearly all the duty to the consumer. There is no argument about that. I quote now from a quotation, also dated 9th December, sent to us by Oxo, Limited, packers. Here the prices are advanced from round about 7 per cent. up to 18 per cent. on those classes of goods which are to bear between 10 and 20 per cent., according to the Resolution.
We are being asked in this Committee to-night to believe that it is the foreigners who will have to pay when already we have the business quotations in our hands this week in anticipation that this Debate would have taken place last week and that the duties would have operated 2392 from 11th December. The only difference is that we shall pay it from tomorrow instead of last week. Lest there is any doubt whether my argument applies only to canned goods let us look at the market quotations for chilled beef. In anticipation of the duty there has already been an advance in Argentine beef of 4d. a stone. Of course, there is not anybody who cannot understand that if Argentine ribs are selling at 6½d. and English ribs are selling at 1s., the poorer people who cannot afford to pay 1s. for English will still have to buy the Argentine beef at 7½d. or whatever it may be. The whole situation is nonsensical for it to be put to an intelligent body, a deliberate body, like the House of Commons.
Take the needs which have to be met in our heavy industrial centres, in some of the centres visited by the Parliamentary Secretary, who is to reply. There is one thing to be said about the miners who have to work in those pits. They have nothing round them often but a pair of shorts, together with boots. The heat makes the sweat pour out of them until the perspiration fills their boots and pours over the top. We have thousands of those people in membership with our societies. They need meat. When they cannot afford to buy English they buy the best Argentine. They buy sirloin. You may get pretty good English at times at 1s. 3d. If it is Scotch it will be 1s. 4d. Who is going to say that with that disparity between 10d. and 1s. 4d. the foreigner is going to pay the ¾d. duty put on so essential a food? It is perfectly nonsensical.
I am not at all sure that, if we give this Ways and Means Resolution and reinforce therefore the general revenue of the Government in order to let them carry on their subsidy policy, that money is going to reach the real producer of the cattle. We are bound in our trade experience to speak as we find. This subsidy has been in operation for more than two years. One curious thing which we have noticed when we have gone to buy in the market is that the price of Irish stores has been regularly up ever since the subsidy has been on. The Irish producer of store cattle seems to have done pretty well out of it. It is clear that nearly 45 per cent. of the total sum which has been voted for subsidies has not gone to the store cattle producer in Great Britain, but to the store cattle producer outside—to 2393 Ireland in the main, and a little to Canada. The amount which has been received by the feeder of cattle and the actual producer of stores in this country is very small, having regard to the cost it has been to the nation.
Let us go a little further on the fiscal side and look at its effect in other directions. My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. J. Williams) spoke about the Welsh miner. It is very pertinent when the Committee are asked to pass this Resolution to look at the Board of Trade Returns. In world trade in general it seems that we have lost in coal exports at least 3,000,000 tons of what we were exporting even in 1925—I would not have the audacity to compare it with such a year as 1929. When we look at the Argentine market, against which we are now going to use this restrictive tax, what do we find? Before the War the Argentine market for coal was about 98 per cent. British, and of that, 94 per cent. came from South Wales. How do the figures come out for the last 11 months? As usual, they are downwards. We see a decrease in the import of British coal by the Argentine of something like 105,000 or 110,000 tons. If you reckon that every 250 or 300 tons might give a miner a year's work, it does not need a great deal of calculation to show what a serious thing it is for a considerable number of men in South Wales to lose that amount of export trade.
Yet here is a Government which thinks that it can save the situation not only by putting a tax on each pound of meat exported by that great market of ours, but by taking powers in the Bill which is to follow this Resolution to regulate the amount of imports. We have been told to-night by the Financial Secretary that the Government, in order to secure the maximum possible meat supplies with the most satisfactory return for the producer, had decided to adopt this dual policy. They had rejected a policy of a high duty because it would be too costly to the consumer. I suppose that when the duty is high the foreigner does not pay and that when the duty is only medium the foreigner pays.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
I should be delighted to hear the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, after all his negotia- 2394 tions for overseas agreements, demonstrate how that happens. If he can do that, will he also tell us how it reacts upon our foreign trade?
§ Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE
I have gone through a great number of negotiations with foreign countries, and I have never yet met the representative of any foreign country who did not think they were going to pay the duty.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
You can hardly find a single commodity in regard to which we have made such an arrangement where the duty has not been paid by our home consumers. The Minister of Pensions, who used to be at the Ministry of Agriculture, shakes his head, but I will give him a case in point, namely, bacon. Instead of a tax, there was an artificial restriction of imports, and everybody thought that the Danes would be seriously injured and that the British consumer would get away with it. What has happened is that the price of bacon has soared in this country and the Dane has done very much better out of it than was expected, because he has had a higher return for a smaller quantity of bacon. I am certain that if you were to follow through commodity after commodity and examine it in all its phases, the old principle would hold good.
I shall be delighted if the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department, in his reply, can prove the contrary. I submit that there is no policy more fatal to the interests of the consumer than that which the Government are following. There is no more inadequate policy, in the light of the financial difficulties of the Treasury and of the trade position of the Board of Trade. I want to emphasise that this is not going to help the export and import position at all. If we look at the trade returns for the 11 months of 1936, we see that we have a balance of imports over exports, in the visible sphere, of something like £311,000,000. If the returns of the last 11 months are represented in the 12 months of the year, we shall have an adverse balance of trade, in the visible sphere, of something like £340,000.000. This is not because of Free Trade. It is in spite of the high tariffs, which make us now one of the highest tariff countries in the world—not the highest, of course, but one of the highest.
2395 [Laughter.] The Financial Secretary smiles, but what does he call a high tariff? The Government are regularly imposing duties of 30, 40 and 50 per cent. Are they not high tariffs? Do not some sections of this Resolution impose high tariffs?
§ Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE
The right hon. Gentleman has not had experience of tariffs in other countries, or he would realise that this is not a high tariff country.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
I did not say it was the highest, but one of the highest, and I should say that it is within the first seven or eight of the important countries. This adverse balance of trade, then, is in spite of the high tariffs. It is in spite of the partial extension of the quota. It is in spite of the Government having gone off the Gold Standard in order to try to remedy the adverse trade position. Instead of really remedying the situation, the Government are driving our foreign trade more and more into this serious situation, and preventing it from having the largest amount of free exchange between the principal nations of the world. I am sure that all of us on this side of the Committee would assist the Government if necessary to devise whatever reasonable means there may be by marketing, by decent import arrangements, by central slaughtering and the like, to make the best possible market we can in this country for British agriculture. We have no quarrel with the desire to make proposals to help agriculture in that way. We can see no royal road in that direction by restricting the purchasing power of the poorest section of our community and by helping to destroy the markets oversea of one of the most important and deserving sections of our industry, the mining industry of this country, and we cannot consent at any time to the imposition of duties of this kind in order to bolster up a system which is using its subsidy and distribution of the revenues of these duties only for the maintenance of private profit and class preservation.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Captain WALLACE
Anybody who has been in the House of Commons with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) as long as I have will realise that he is a 2396 past master in making the best of a rather thin case. There is nobody in this House whose delivery is more forceful, whose knowledge is, I admit, on many subjects most profound, and who is better able to persuade the House that it is absolutely universal. I do not know that there are many people whom I dislike following more on almost the first occasion when I have been put into the position of having to wind up a first-class Debate. I should like, first of all, cordially to agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said when he referred to the unsatisfactory nature of our deliberations this evening. We four orphans of the storm on this bench, defending the fort, have been many times acutely conscious of the difficulties imposed upon Government and Opposition alike by a situation which is certainly not your fault, Sir Dennis, and which is not, I believe, ours either. The Debate has ranged over almost the whole world, and if it had been necessary for a Government reply to be made immediately to each of the speeches which have been addressed to the Committee, the spokesmen would have had to include practically every Minister, and the answers in many cases would have had to be slightly contradictory.
It is a very remarkable thing about the Debate—and I intend, if I may, to be perfectly frank with the Committee—that we are, in this Ways and Means Resolution, in the Bill which it is proposed to base upon it, and in the future reactions of what we are asking the Committee to do to-night, moving to a large extent in the realm of conjecture. I only wish that it were possible to reply, in the time at my disposal, to the very interesting speeches which have been addressed to the Committee from different quarters on such diverse subjects as agricultural reorganisation, trade balance, currency reform, central slaughtering, and the like. But while I know that the Chairman has, in his generosity, allowed a good deal of latitude to other speakers, I feel that it is the duty of the Government spokesman winding up the Debate to confine himself more or less to the subject under discussion.
To go back to this Resolution, I would like to say, in the first place, that if the Committee understood my right hon. and gallant Friend to mean that the passing *** 2397 of the Resolution was essential to the prosperity or the existence of the livestock industry, that was not what he meant, because, of course, as the Committee very well knows, the money upon which hon. Members opposite claim at the moment the industry is dependent is to be found from the Treasury, and the rejection of this Resolution would not actually affect agriculture at the moment at all. But I would remind the Committee that this is no sudden change of policy which has been sprung upon them. It has been advertised and made plain for many months past that His Majesty's Government were anxious to secure from the Argentine Republic an alteration in the Roca-Runciman Agreement which would permit us to put some levy upon their imported meat. It is indeed the very protracted nature of the negotiations which has prevented the Government from coming to the House some considerable time ago in order to get these duties put on. Therefore, what we are doing tonight is primarily a simple financial operation.
We are proposing, now that we have at last got the power to do so under the new Argentine Agreement, to carry out a plan which we have had in contemplation for a long time; and although we do not, as the Committee knows, earmark money for a definite purpose, there must obviously be sonic connection between the raising of these duties at the rate of ¾d. per lb. and the future general agricultural policy of the Government. Here I would like to say that actually the passing of this Resolution is not essential for what the right hon. Gentleman described as Section 3, and which is in reality Part II, of the Livestock Bill, because the money is actually being found from the Treasury.
It seems to me that the proposal we are discussing can fairly be criticised under three heads. It is open to the Committee to say, first of all, that we have made a bad bargain. They could say, and it has been said by many hon. Members, that the imposition of these new duties will react unfavourably upon our trade with Argentina—I think the right hon. Gentleman implied that—and will prejudice the very important interests which we have in that country. Equally well it has been argued on the other side that in return for making the duty as low as ¾d per lb., we ought to have ob- 2398 tained very much larger concessions from the Argentine Republic. Both those points of view have been stated, and they are, of course, mutually destructive. In the second place, it can be argued, and it has been argued very forcibly by my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir A. M. Samuel) and the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), as well as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Major Dorman-Smith), that the duties proposed are not big enough to secure to British agriculture favourable conditions for the development of the livestock industry. Equally, an appeal has been made with great force from the Labour and Opposition Liberal benches that the duties are much too big and that they impose art unfair and indeed a tragic burden upon the consumer. Both those things cannot be true at once.
I would like very briefly to take up these three lines of argument. First of all, there is the argument that we have made a bad bargain with the Argentine Republic—in simple language, that at the end of many months' negotiations His Majesty's Government have been done. I think it ought to be known that if we had not been able, after all these negotiations, to secure in the new trade agreement signed the other day a mutually satisfactory arrangement which would benefit — [Interruption] — perhaps not everybody: it may not benefit the margarine merchant—but it will benefit great numbers of people in this country—then the duties which we should have put on, had we been obliged to act unilaterally, would have been substantially higher. The level of duties in this series of Ways and Means Resolutions represents, from our point of view, a very important concession to Argentina. In exchange for this concession we have been able to secure guarantees for our export trade, and that is intimately bound up with the position of the consumer, because a man at work drawing wages is a very much better consumer than a man who is out of employment.
We have been able to obtain concessions as well for our financial interests; and all these concessions judged as a whole justify in our view the modification of our original proposals and the limiting of them to a duty of ¾d. a lb. Let nobody scoff, even on this occasion, at the consideration shown to what I have 2399 described, for want of a better phrase, as "our financial interests," because our investments in Argentina, those which do pay dividends, do not come home in large blocks of money to super-fatted millionaires. Most of the investments are held by small people, and the dividends, when they come home, represent a substantial addition to the purchasing power of those people, which ought to help British agriculture and British miners as well.
§ Captain WALLACE
Beef represents 33 per cent. of our imports from Argentina, and yet we asked Argentina to agree not only to a duty, whereas under the Roca-Runciman Agreement she was guaranteed free entry, but we also got her to agree to a reduction in her shipments. If we had tried to insist on a higher duty than ¾d. there is no doubt in my mind, and I did have a certain amount to do with the day-to-day negotiations with Argentina, that we should have had a less favourable agreement, and in all probability no agreement at all. The particular agreement from which this Resolution arises fulfils, I think, the essential quality of all good agreements, and that is that neither side should feel that they have had the worst of it, and that in the long run the agreement should be worked by both parties in the spirit that each of them has at least had a fair share.
After what we have heard during the last few months, and in many cases known ourselves, about the state of British agriculture, nobody speaking from this Box could fail to be moved by the impressive speeches we have heard today from people directly concerned in that industry, and nobody speaking from this Box would pretend, at least I certainly would not, that a duty of ¾d. a lb. on imported chilled beef would be sufficient to safeguard home agriculture in the sense that it would induce people to switch from buying Argentine beef to buying the home product. As the right hon. Gentleman opposite and others pointed out very forcibly, the difference in cost of production is a great deal more than that. But these proposals do not by any means stand alone; they are part of a 2400 far-reaching scheme involving both a subsidy and a quantitative regulation of imports with a view to maintaining a reasonable level of prices, though if I were to pursue the discussion on this wider aspect I know that the Chair would tell me to sit down. I know also, in common with hon. Members in all parts of the House who have spoken for the agricultural industry, that we must also in this agreement consider our export trade, secured very largely by the Argentine Agreement, and the position of the consumer at home.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
Are we to understand that the Argentine are going to allow more opportunities for taking our exports because we have put a duty on their exports?
§ Captain WALLACE
I know that it sounds very odd but I can only reply that we have at least got Argentina to maintain all the export concessions previously given us, and at the same time to accept this duty on their exports to this market.
The next point which I should like to take up is the question of free entry for the Dominions. I was particularly asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) to answer this point; and the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George), who I think very rightly, and very charmingly, expressed the idea that town and country are not antagonistic, also wanted to know about free entry for the Dominions. She used a rather extraordinary expression, because she talked about "taking down the shelter." May I tell her that we are not taking down any shelter; the only thing we are doing is not putting up a shelter because the Dominions have had free entry and we continue to maintain that position.
With regard to our general policy at Ottawa, it will be well known to the Committee that we guaranteed to Australia and New Zealand an expanding share of this market. Because of the greater cost of transporting chilled meat from the Dominions, for one thing, it would have been necessary that any duty on Dominion meat should be substantially preferential. Let the Committee imagine what an uproar there would have been, and I think hon. Members opposite would have joined in it, had it been suggested 2401 that we should tax the Dominions at the same rate as the foreigner. The plain fact of the matter is this: when it became obvious that it was not possible to get a duty of more than ¾d. a lb. upon imported Argentine meat, and to get an agreement as well, it became equally plain that there was no room for a preferential position for the Empire halfway between free entry and the foreign duty. Suppose we had taken the obvious course, the course, indeed, which I think was suggested in an Amendment which failed to secure acceptance, of halving the duty on Empire products, making it three-eighths of a penny per lb. Allowing for the extra cost of transport, that would not have meant any appreciable preference over the foreign product, and if we had tried to impose it there is no doubt that we should have struck a savage blow at our general policy of Empire trade, which nobody on this side of the House would have felt able to justify.
Now I come to the last, and in many ways much the most difficult, of the questions with which I have to deal to-night. I may tell the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) that the very kind references which he made to a past activity of mine makes it much less easy for me to answer him. I may tell him straight away that if I did not think that the Resolution which we are asking the Committee to accept was for the best, I should not be standing here supporting it. I hope he will do me the honour to believe that. It is obviously impossible for anybody on any side of the Committee to dogmatise as to exactly how the duty of ¾d. per lb. will be paid. I can tell the Committee only this, which is really repeating what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Mr. Haslam) an hour or two ago, that, in the early stages of these negotiations, one of the greatest difficulties with which our negotiators had to contend, was the obstinate, and indeed, unshakeable, conviction of the Argentine negotiators that they would have to pay this duty.
I feel certain that if it had been possible for me to go to them and say: "We are going to put a duty on your meat, but you can pass it on to the consumer in England," they would have said: "All right; you can put on 2d. or 4d. or anything you like." That is the real answer to the question as to who will 2402 pay the duty. It would be dishonest to pretend that we feel any certainty that the whole of the duty will be paid before it gets to the consumer, but there are a large number of agents, in production, slaughtering, packing, shipment and distribution, some of whom can afford to do what one may call "take up a bit of the slack." I believe that one of the things which will induce them to do so will be the increasing Dominions supplies which are not being taxed, and which offer an alternative to anybody who thinks that he is being unfairly treated by the Argentine producer.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
I would like to know how that works out. Do I understand from what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has said that the Government mean to extend the allocation of the experimental quota on chilled meat? If that is so, there is no point in the Minister's argument about chilled meat.
§ Captain WALLACE
The Dominions, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, are entitled to an expanding share of the market. It would not be in order for me to go into what this is going to be. It is not the actual amount of the alternative supply but the fact of its existence. I am sure that the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) knows that it exercises a very salutary effect against any general rise in price. Actually, if ¾d. per lb. is added to the retail price of all imported beef—for this argument I am prepared to include Dominion beef as well—and other prices remain unchanged, the cost-of-living index figure will rise by approximately only half of a point. If the price of all beef, home and imported, were to rise by the same amount, ¾d. per lb., the cost-of-living index would rise by just under one point.
We have heard a good deal to-night of the terrible effect of this proposal upon the poorest of the poor, and they are speeches to which it is difficult to be deaf. We are asked to believe, no doubt in good faith, that the poorest of the poor are entirely dependent upon Argentine chilled beef. I have had some figures extracted to show exactly what the proportions are. They reveal that 30 per cent. of the beef sold in London is home produced; in Cardiff, 50 per cent. is home produced. On the north-east coast generally, the figure is 58 per cent. and in Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow 2403 over 66 ⅔ per cent. of the beef is British home produced. Nobody can pretend that Glasgow is very much more prosperous than London. It seems to me that those figures completely knock the bottom out of any argument that the poorest of the poor exist solely upon Argentine beef, and will be disastrously affected by this proposal. I accept the challenge thrown out by the hon. Member for South East Ham (Mr. Barnes), and I know that he will be just as glad as I am to learn the position which those figures disclose.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
We do not wish to have any misunderstanding about this matter, and I would ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to take our own Scottish co-operative figures. They show that 87 per cent. of the beef consumed in that area, when we gave evidence before the Lane Fox Commission, was home killed; but the other 13 per cent. is eaten by the poorest of the poor.
§ Captain WALLACE
I am not trying to make a case. I am trying to tell the Committee the real facts, and if I am giving anything away in the process, hon. Members opposite are entitled to it and they can make anything of it they like. One of the most encouraging things was the statement of the right hon. Gentleman himself when he finished, that the co-operative societies who, I imagine he would claim, cater very largely for the working class, were the best customers of the British farmer, not only in the matter of quantity but in the matter of quality. Here again, therefore, I think that he and I can shake hands on that, and agree that perhaps the case is not quite so bad as it was painted.
There is one small point which I should like to put in here. A question was asked by the hon. Member for East Ham South with regard to the relation between the specific duty of ¾d. per lb. and the 20 per cent. ad valorem duty. I am informed that the 20 per cent. ad valorem is calculated on the declared value of all the chilled beef that comes in, so it may be said that it is a sort of re-hash of all the joints. Perhaps, before 1 leave 2404 this subject, I might also remind the Committee that the bulk of the frozen beef which may indeed really be said to be the beef eaten by the poorest of the poor—namely, 2.4 million cwts. out of the 3.2 million cwts., which is roughly 11 per cent. of the total consumption of beef and veal—comes, not from Argentina, where it will bear this duty which is supposed to be so iniquitous, but from within the Empire; and there is nothing in these proposals to alter the price at all.
Finally, I do not think it is possible to dissociate this question of hardship to the consumer from the question of the purchasing power of consumers in general. I know that I shall find a considerable amount of agreement with that on the other side. Therefore, without wishing in any way to be provocative on an occasion like this—and I think you will agree, Sir Dennis, that I have let a good many hares run past my nose during the evening—I feel bound to remind the Committee that during the past few years many millions of people have had their purchasing power very substantially increased by the r égime which we are told swindled the electors, though the electors only 13 months ago appear to have taken a very different view of it.
This is one of those Resolutions upon which one cannot really end up with a rousing peroration, because there is, as I have tried to point out, an immense amount to be said on both sides on almost every aspect of this problem. The whole scheme of which this duty forms a central and integral part has been carefully, and, indeed, laboriously, contrived to secure a just balance between a large number of conflicting interests. The taxpayer will continue to bear part of the burden of the subsidy, because we cannot afford to sacrifice our trade relations with Argentina, for the very simple reason that, if we do sacrifice them, we shall put more people out of work. The duty is high enough to give the Dominions an adequate preference, and I think that few people, even those who would have liked to see the Dominions pay something, would dispute the fact that we ought to give the Dominions some preference. The duty is not, in my view—and I say it honestly and in all sincerity to the Committee in general and to the hon. Member for Burslem in particular—so high as 2405 to be a serious burden to the consumer, and certainly it is not such as to jeopardise the many other benefits which we on this side of the House hope and believe will flow from the general policy of which this Ways and Means Resolution is only an incidental part.
§ 10.20 p.m.
§ Mr. RILEY
I beg to move, in line 3, after "thirty-six," to insert "until the tenth day of December, nineteen hundred and thirty-seven." The purpose of the Amendment is to limit the proposal to a period of 12 months. I only want to use in its support the excellent arguments used by the Minister himself. He said he had to admit that we had been discussing a proposal which was largely in the realm of conjecture. He also said that the passing of the Motion would not affect agriculture at all. In other words, he has admitted that the proposal, as it stands, is a leap in the dark. We do not know what is going to occur. Who is going to bear the burden of the duty has not been demonstrated. For that reason I move the Amendment.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE
I am afraid the Amendment could not be accepted. The view that we take is that this must be regarded as part of a longer policy and a longer scheme than acceptance of the Amendment would make possible. For example, the agreement with Argentina is for three years, and it was fully visualised during the discussions with the representatives of that country—
§ Deputy-Chairman distinctly ruled that there must be no reference to the Argentine Agreement at all, and we were debarred from discussing it.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I think the hon. Member is mistaken. I have informed myself of what the Deputy-Chairman ruled, and at present I have been unable to see anything out of order in the references that have been made to the Argentine Agreement.
§ Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE
To limit the operation of the duty to one year is a course that we could not adopt, and I must ask the Committee to resist the Amendment.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
In that case I shall ask my hon. Friends to divide against the Government. The ridiculous attitude that they take is best illustrated by the report of the Milk Reorganisation Committee. There you had exactly the same sort of thing operating, a subsidy for milk, and after the most careful inquiry they are asking the Government now to change the position and put the charge back upon the Treasury and take it off the consumer. In this case, obviously, from the last reply of the Parliamentary Secretary, the position is that he does not know whether it is to be paid by the consumer or not. In those circumstances we say that we know that it will be paid by the consumer. We ought to check it up at the end of 12 months and have the right to revise it. Therefore I ask my hon. Friends to vote for the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 122; Noes, 205.2409
|Division No. 43.]||AYES.||[10.25 p.m.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Chater, D.||Gibson, R. (Greenock)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Cluse, W. S.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||Cocks, F. S.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Daggar, G.||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddi'sbro, W.)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Dobble, W.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelty)|
|Bonfield, J. W.||Ede, J. C.||Groves, T. E.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)|
|Batey, J.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)|
|Bellenger, F.||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Hardie, G. D.|
|Benson, G.||Foot, D. M.||Harris, Sir P. A.|
|Bromfield, W.||Frankel, D.||Hayday, A.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Gallacher. W.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)|
|Burke, W. A.||Gardner, B. W.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)|
|Cape, T.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)|
|Cassells, T.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Holdsworth, H.|
|Hollins, A.||Naylor, T. E.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Jagger, J.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Oliver, G. H.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Owen, Major G.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|John, W.||Paling, W.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Johnston. Rt. Hon. T.||Parker, J,||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Parkinson, J. A.||Thurtle, E.|
|Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)||Potts. J.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Price, M. P.||Viant, S. P.|
|Kelly, W. T.||Pritt, D. N.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Quibell, D. J. K.||Walker, J.|
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Lathan, G.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Watson, W. McL.|
|Lawson, J. J.||Ridley, G.||Westwood, J.|
|Leach, W.||Riley, B.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Lee, F.||Ritson, J.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Leonard, W.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Leslie, J. R.||Rowson, G.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Logan, D. G.||Salter, Dr. A.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Lunn, W.||Seely, Sir H. M.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Mac Laren, A.||Sexton, T. M.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Maclean, N.||Shinwell, E.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Short, A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Montague, F.||Silkin, L.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hn. H. (Ha'kn'y, S)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)||Liddall, W. S.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Liewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Dugdale. Major T. L.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Duggan, H. J.||Lumley, Capt. L. R.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Duncan, J. A. L.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Dunglass, Lord||MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Scot. U.)|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Eastwood, J. F.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Assheton, R.||Ellis, Sir G.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Emery, J. F.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Entwistle, C. F.||Magnay, T.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Errington, E.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Evans. Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Everard, W. L.||Markham, S. F.|
|Balnlel, Lord||Fildes, Sir H.||Maxwell, S. A.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Fleming, E. L.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Belt, Sir A. L.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Blindell, Sir J.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Ganzonl, Sir J.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cir'nc'str)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Munro, P.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Goodman, Col. A. W.||Nall, Sir J.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Bull, B. B.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Grimston. R. V.||Penny, Sir G.|
|Butler, R. A.||Guy, J. C. M.||Perkins, W. R, D.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hanbury, Sir C.||Plugge, L. F.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Hannah, I. C.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Cary, R. A.||Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Radford, E. A.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Heligers, Captain F. F. A.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Cazalet, Capt V. A. (Chippenham)||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Rankin, R.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmou'h)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Christie, J. A.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Hoare. Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Holmes, J. S.||Remer, J. R.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Hopkinson, A.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'derry)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Hunter, T.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Cooper, Rt.Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh,W.)||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Rowlands, G.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Russell, R..J. (Eddisbury)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Salt. E. W.|
|Cross, R. H.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Leckie, J. A.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Leech, Dr J. W.||Scott, Lord William|
|De Chair, S. S.||Lees-Jones, J.||Selley, H. R|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Donner, P. W.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Lewis, O.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Simmonds, 0. E.||Sutcliffe, H.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Tate, Mavis C.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Smith, L. W. (Hallam)||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Titchfield, Marquees of||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.||Touche, G. C.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Spens, W. P.||Tree, A. R. L. F.||Wragg, H.|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'I'd)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.||Turton, R. H.|
|Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)||Wakefield, W. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Walker-Smith, Sir J.||Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert|
|Strickland, Captain W. F.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan||Ward and Dr. Morris-Jones.|
|Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
§ Main Question put.2410
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 205; Noes, 123.2411
|Division No.44.]||AYES.||[10.35 p.m|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Errington, E.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Evans. Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Patrick, C. M.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Everard, W. L.||Penny, Sir G.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Flldes, Sir H.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Fleming, E. L.||Plugge, L. F.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Radford, E. A.|
|Assheton, R.||Ganzonl, Sir J.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Gluckstein, L. H.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Goodman, Col. A. W.||Rankin, R.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Balnlel, Lord||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Remer, J. R.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Grimston. R. V.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Guy, J. C. M.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Hanbury, Sir C.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'nderry)|
|Belt, Sir A. L.||Hannah, I. C.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Rowlands, G.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Russell, R..J. (Eddisbury)|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Salt. E. W.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Sandys, E. D.|
|Bull, B. B.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Scott, Lord William|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Hoare. Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Selley, H. R|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Holmes, J. S.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Butler, R. A.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Hunter, T.||Simmonds, 0. E.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Cary, R. A.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Cazalet, Capt V. A. (Chippenham)||Leckie, J. A.||Spens, W. P.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Leech, Dr J. W.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'I'd)|
|Christie, J. A.||Lees-Jones, J.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Lewis, O.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Liddall, W. S.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Liewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Cooper, Rt.Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh,W.)||Lumley, Capt. L. R.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Scot. U.)||Titchfleld, Marquees of|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Touche, G. C.|
|Cross, R. H.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Magnay, T.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Denville, Alfred||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Donner, P. W.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Markham, S. F.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)||Maxwell, S. A.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Dugdale. Major T. L.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Wragg, H.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cir'nc'str)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Munro, P.||Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert|
|Emery, J. F.||Nall, Sir J.||Ward and Sir James Blindell|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Entwistle, C. F.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Potts, J.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hardie, G. D.||Price, M. P.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||Harris, Sir P. A.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Heyday, A.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Henderson, J. (Ardwlck)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ridley, G.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Riley, B.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Holdsworth, H.||Ritson, J.|
|Batey, J.||Hollins, A.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Bellenger, F.||Jagger, J.||Rowson, G.|
|Benson, G.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Salter, Dr. A.|
|Bromfield, W.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Burke, W. A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Shinwell, E.|
|Cape, T.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Short, A.|
|Cassells, T.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Silkin, L.|
|Chater, D.||Kelly, W. T||Simpson, F. B.|
|Cluse. W. S.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Daggar, G.||Lathan, G.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Davies. R. J. (Westhoughton)||Lawson, J. J.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Dobbie, W.||Leach, W.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Lee, F.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Ede, J. C.||Leonard, W.||Thurtle, E.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Leslie, J. R.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Logan, D. G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Lunn, W.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Foot, D. M.||McEntee, V. La T.||Walker, J.|
|Frankel, D.||MacLaren, A.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Gallacher, W.||Maclean, N.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Westwood, J.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Mathers. G.||Whiteley, W.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Messer, F.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Montague, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Morrison, Rt. Hn. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.)||Williams. T. (Don Valley)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Naylor, T. E||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Oliver, G. H.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro. W.)||Owen, Major G.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Paling, W.|
|Griffiths, J. (Lianelly)||Parker, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Parkinson, J. A.||Mr. John and Mr Groves.|
§ Motion made, and Question put,